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Last Updated: Monday, 8 October 2007, 19:12 GMT 20:12 UK
Iraq soldier 'killed as he slept'
Private Michael Tench (MoD picture)
Hundreds of mourners attended the Sunderland teenager's funeral
A teenage soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq was asleep in his Warrior vehicle when he died, an inquest heard.

Private Michael Tench, 18, from Sunderland, was returning to the British Army base in the north of Basra when the device exploded on 21 January.

Lance Corporal Rory Mackenzie, who lost a leg in the blast, gave evidence at the first day of the inquest at Sunderland Coroner's Court.

He said Pte Tench probably did not wake up before he died.

When the bomb exploded, their Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicle was turning off a road on to a carriageway which led back to the base.

L/Cpl Mackenzie said: "Before the bomb went off I had just woken up and I put my safety goggles on.

"I looked over at Michael and he was fast asleep and to the best of my knowledge he didn't wake up.

"It felt as if the Warrior reared up and I was lifted forward and flung back down.

"Michael was flung forward and his helmet struck my jaw, knocking me unconscious."

'Armour penetrated'

Major Giles Woodhouse, Company Commander, said the vehicle was in probably the most vulnerable point for the entire city, used by 20 to 30 military convoys every day.

Corporal David Lovell, travelling in a separate vehicle, tried to help Pte Tench after the explosion.

He realised the teenager was dead when he found a "large entry wound around the chest area that had penetrated his armour".

Pte Tench, a former Hylton Red House School pupil, spent his first Christmas away from home doing the job he had longed for since the age of seven.

Hundreds of people attended his funeral at Sunderland's Holy Trinity Church on 2 February.

The inquest continues on Tuesday.

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