Legal Experts Calling For Improvements On Anniversary Of Brecon Beacons Incident
Specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell are calling on the Armed Forces to ensure that staff are properly trained and following protocols on the prevention of heat injuries, with incidents still occurring years after three SAS reservists died during a selection on the Brecon Beacons.
The men died after a 16-mile weighted speed march in July 2013, having suffered severe heatstroke. A Health and Safety Inspector said failings identified in the trek were some of the “most significant” they had come across.
A lack of training on heat illness was believed to have contributed to the fatalities, with Coroner Louise Hunt concluding at the inquest in 2015 that a “catalogue of very serious mistakes” had been made by many people involved in the planning and execution of the test march.
Following the deaths, the Ministry of Defence made changes to internal guidance and protocols to prevent such a tragedy ever happening again. However, it seems that sadly there are still lessons to be learned as just three years later another death occurred in similar circumstances.
Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell are now calling on the Ministry of Defence to ensure appropriate risk assessments are undertaken, troops are adequately supervised during exercises, and red flags are acted upon immediately by supervising staff during strenuous training conducted in hot weather.
Expert Opinion“It is now seven years on from the Brecon Beacons deaths, but still not enough has been done to stop these tragic incidents from happening.
We are aware that several changes have been made to the guidance around heat injuries to increase the safety for troops, and we welcome these.
But unfortunately, there are still substantial failings taking place, resulting in multiple injuries and another tragic death in 2016 which could have been prevented.
Through our work, we have come across many people who have suffered serious injuries due to training staff not carrying out adequate risk assessments or failing to act upon soldiers reporting or exhibiting serious symptoms indicative of a heat injury, such as dizziness, staggering and muscle cramps, which when left untreated can lead to more severe complications and can kill.”
Alexander Davenport - Associate Solicitor
David Glanville, 30, from Craven Arms in Shropshire, one of Alexander’s clients, enlisted into the Royal Signals in October 2015. On 4 September 2018, David was required to undertake an annual fitness test.
The test was an eight-mile weighted tab across roads, tracks and hills.
David started to struggle around the four-mile mark and complained of problems to his Physical Training Instructor. He further complained of feeling dizzy and nauseous at around six miles but said he was told to “man up and crack on” by the Instructor. Under the regulations, as soon as a symptom such as dizziness is reported, a heat illness should be presumed and the soldier should be cooled down. However, the guidance was not followed and the march continued. At the 7.5mile point, David started to vomit and collapsed.
It was only at this time that he was actively cooled, before being taken to hospital by ambulance.
As a result of David’s heat injury, he lost the ability to control his body temperature in hot conditions such as during exercise, and he subsequently lost his career in the Army. He continues to have symptoms associated with his injury to this day.
The Ministry Of Defence has admitted liability for David’s injury.
He said: “It’s been almost two years since I collapsed during the fitness test, and it is still having a huge impact on my life.
“This has hit me hard, not just physically and emotionally, but also financially. I lost the career that I loved and have had to start over again.
“My life has been completely turned upside down and I believe that this could have been prevented if my training instructor had followed the regulations. When I complained of feeling unwell I was basically ignored and told to carry on.
“While nothing can change what has happened to me, I hope that lessons can be learned and others don’t have to suffer like I have.”
Expert Opinion“The regulations are in place for a reason and these should be implemented correctly and strictly adhered to.
I unfortunately speak to far too many service men and women who have suffered serious injuries after their symptoms were ignored by supervising staff or PTIs, often leading to drastic complications.
We are therefore calling on the Ministry of Defence to ensure that all supervising staff are trained in how and when to act when these red flags are present and to remove the toxic ‘crack on’ attitude that currently prevails.”
Alexander Davenport - Associate Solicitor