Page last updated at 18:41 GMT, Monday, 27 October 2008

Cadet death officer accuses MoD

Kaylee McIntosh
Kaylee McIntosh drowned after a boat upturned in 2007

An Army cadet officer who led a boating exercise in which a teenager drowned has said he was not solely responsible for her death.

Major George McCallum said his part in the accident which led to the death of Kaylee McIntosh would "stay with me for the rest of my life".

But he insisted more could have been done by the Ministry of Defence and "certain individuals".

He was speaking on the 10th and final day of a fatal accident inquiry.

Kaylee, 14, from Fyvie in Aberdeenshire, died while on Loch Carnan on South Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

She was one of 34 cadets on the three-boat training exercise on 3 August last year.

A rescue operation was launched after the vessel carrying Kaylee and 12 others capsized in choppy seas.

There is no intention on my part to duck responsibilities that were fairly mine - they will stay with me for the rest of my life
Major George McCallum

But an error in a headcount taken after the incident meant she was trapped under the upturned boat for an hour and a half before it was noticed she was missing.

She had also been wearing the wrong type of life jacket, which resulted in her being pinned beneath the boat.

Major McCallum told the hearing at Inverness Sheriff Court that the inquiry had "helped me to realise that I may not be the only person who bears responsibility for the events of that day".

He said that barely a day had passed when he had not considered how he could have done things differently, and that "there is perhaps a natural tendency to blame oneself for everything that went wrong".

Major McCallum argued that he was sufficiently experienced to operate the powerboat used on the day of the tragedy and he knew the area of the exercise.

"There is no intention on my part to duck responsibilities that were fairly mine - they will stay with me for the rest of my life regardless of the outcome of this inquiry," he said.

"Nevertheless, I do feel that I did not receive the level of support that I could reasonably have expected from the Ministry of Defence in the way that the system of safe training was being applied at that time, or from certain individuals who could have done more either prior to the accident or in its immediate aftermath."

Risk assessment

Advocate Andrew Webster, representing the MoD, said the "immediate cause" of the accident which resulted in Kaylee's death was Major McCallum's instruction for those in the boat to move to the right when it began to take water.

Earlier, Procurator Fiscal David Teale said a wide range of failures at the planning stage contributed to the accident, including a failure to give coastguards advance notice of the exercise, a lack of communication between the boats and a failure to keep a list of names.

Simon Di Rollo QC, representing Kaylee's family, said a risk assessment for the task was a "worthless document" failing to meet specific requirements.

He said there was evidence of systemic as well as individual failures, and "much of what went wrong occurred because of a failure to exercise basic common sense".

Sheriff Alastair MacFadyen closed the inquiry by offering his condolences to Kaylee's parents, who sat through the hearing.

He said he would provide a written determination at a later date.

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