Coroner: ‘Marine didn’t die alone’

Buxton Marine Scott Taylor, who was killed in Afghanistan. Photo contributed.
Buxton Marine Scott Taylor, who was killed in Afghanistan. Photo contributed.

A CORONER has praised the professionalism and bravery of the soldiers who cared for Buxton Marine Scott Taylor in the aftermath of an explosion that ultimately claimed his life.

Scott, known as Scotty, was killed by the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) while on foot patrol in Sangin in the Helmand Province on May 30 last year. He was 21.

Speaking at Chesterfield Coroner’s court during the inquest into Marine Taylor’s death, coroner Dr Robert Hunter said: “During the course of the evidence I have heard and the statements I have read, I would like to officially put on record how impressed I was with the professionalism and bravery shown by everyone that attended to Scott on May 30.

“People in civilian life not connected with the military may not fully appreciate the comradeship that goes on between military personnel but we have heard of personal acts of bravery by a number of people who placed themselves at risk and disregarded their own personal safety to run to the area and attend to Scott in an area where there may have been further IED’s.

“I hope the family can have some comfort that Scott didn’t die alone. He died being cared for and comforted for by his mates, people who mattered to him, and they obviously felt deeply about Scott.

“All the personnel on patrol that evening are a credit to themselves and their respective units.

“They should be assured they did all they physically could to care for Scott.”

Recording a verdict that Scott was unlawfully killed while on active military service, Dr Hunter said that the body armour and helmet he had been wearing were intact without any defects and that medical reports had concluded his injuries were so severe that he had a less than one per cent chance of survival.

He added: “ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) forces were invited by the Afghanistan government to assist in relation to the insurgency. That is a distinct difference from the popular civilian view we are at war. We are there at the request of the Afghanistan government to assist and support them.

“The enemy does not wear a uniform. They pursue their ideology because they cannot be won over by persuasive or diplomatic measures and so resort to terrorising their own people.

“The knock-on effect is that left to their own devices, if they had control of that area, there could be a direct effect on UK security.”

Dr Hunter said Marine Taylor was the “bravest of the brave” and extended his condolences to his family, friends and comrades, adding: “I was genuinely moved by the praise and high regard you all had for Scott and the way you all cared for him in the last hour of his life.”

Speaking after the inquest, Scott’s parents Jayne and Steve and brother Liam paid this tribute to him: “We were privileged to be Scotty’s parents. He was a loving and caring son, a wonderful brother and true and loyal friend to all who knew him.

“As a small boy he wanted to be a Royal Marines Commando and when he was old enough he followed his dream. He took great pride in the job he did and he had the highest respect for those he served with, lads who were like brothers to him.

“We know on May 30 last year the lads on the ground with Scotty fought to save his life and for that we are truly thankful. Tragically he paid the ultimate price doing the job he loved. We are enormously proud of Scotty, he will always be a hero to his family and friends.

“We have been astounded by the spontaneous acts of bravery we have heard about from all the lads who put their own safety and lives at risk to help Scotty.

“We were comforted to know that Scotty was with his friends and fellow Marines who he loved like brothers and we were touched by the way they all fought so hard to save him.

“We’ve heard and read so much about Scott’s bravery but all the lads who are out there are incredibly brave and we thank each and every one of them for what they did on that day.

“We are so unbelievably proud of Scott, and of Liam who is still serving in the Marines, as well as all the men and women who are also out there because they do such a magnificent job.

“We’ve also been overwhelmed by the continuous support from family, friends and the whole of Buxton, the High Peak and beyond. We couldn’t have got through this past year without the support and for that we are immensely grateful.”

MARINE Scott Taylor was someone who could be trusted to always give 100 per cent, his commanding officer said.

Scott and a fellow Marine, Thomas French, operated a Vallon metal detector which was used to detect for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other weapons.

Giving evidence at his inquest last week, Sergeant Daniel Pea, Scott’s troop commander, said: “Scotty was one of my main Vallon operators, my best. He was a lad I could trust. I knew he gave 100 per cent always and would stay switched on at all times.”

Marine French said Scott was always keen to be a Vallon operator and “was quite reluctant to let anyone else do it because he knew exactly what he was doing.”

During their patrol on May 30, Scott and Marine French had climbed over a wall into a compound in Sangin to clear the way for their colleagues. But as Marine French waited for Scott to reach him, so they could clear the area, the explosion occurred, he told the inquest.

Marine French added that he never heard any signs that Scott’s Vallon had detected anything in the area he was Valloning before the explosion.

In his final comments, coroner Dr Robert Hunter added: “Vallon operators have a very difficult task. They are at the front of the patrol with only a one metre length of metal and plastic between them and an explosive device. This naturally is mentally exhausting for them.

“One can admire the courage of people who use Vallon’s. They are undertaking that task knowing they could seriously injure themselves or at worse be caused fatal injuries but they do that knowing they are protecting their colleagues and comrades behind them.

“I am satisfied that Scott performed his Vallon duties to a very high standard.”

Private James Goodrich, a combat medical technician, said he and colleagues treated Scott for a number of serious injuries immediately after the blast before a helicopter arrived to evacuate him 45 minutes later. He added that it usually took around 20 to 30 minutes for a helicopter to arrive from Camp Bastion and he wasn’t sure why it had taken so long on this occasion.

The inquest heard that there were two different types of helicopters in Afghanistan to evacuate injured military personnel, a larger helicopter which is better equipped medically and another chopper which is much smaller but does not carry blood. The larger helicopter was initially requested for Scott though it was the smaller one that was deployed, the inquest heard.

Coroner Dr Hunter, raising concerns over the number of helicopters available to evacuate injured military personnel, said: “Given the number of incidents they attend, one may think three helicopters is insufficient and that may be the case.

“The difficulty is that the forces medical service is grossly undermanned despite their best efforts to recruit doctors and nurses. That is no fault of the Ministry of Defence.

“I do have some concerns about the number of helicopters and I do feel I would like to write (to the Government) for the Ministry of Defence to consider whether there is any possible means of enhancing the medical cas-evac system. I think it needs to be given consideration for future deployment.”