Page last updated at 17:06 GMT, Wednesday, 22 October 2008 18:06 UK

Profiles of Hercules crash dead

Hercules servicemen

An inquest into the deaths of 10 military personnel killed when their Hercules plane was shot down in Iraq three years ago has found the incident was the result of "serious systemic failures".

It was the largest loss of life in a hostile act during the Iraq conflict and one of the worst tragedies suffered by the RAF for many years. These are the profiles of the men who died.

FLT SGT MARK GIBSON, RAF LYNEHAM

Flt Sgt Mark Gibson
Flt Sgt Gibson was described as one of life's entertainers

Flt Sgt Gibson, 34, from Cardiff, was awarded Operational Service Medals for Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The MoD said: "Throughout his career, Mark managed to combine his intelligent, hard working approach to professional matters with an ebullient enthusiasm that made him a pleasure to work with.

"He was one of life's entertainers, a true character, a real giver - never a taker," it said.

His family were deeply saddened and shocked by his death.

Clare Bateman-Jones, a cousin, said: "Mark loved being in the RAF and couldn't wait to join when he left school at 18. He was always such a happy guy, easy to be around, very laid back. It's terribly sad."

ACTING L/CPL STEVEN JONES, ROYAL SIGNALS

Acting L/Cpl Steven Jones
Acting L/Cpl Jones was described as adventurous and fun-loving

The family of Acting L/Cpl Jones, 25, of Fareham, Hampshire, described him as adventurous and fun loving with a wicked sense of humour.

The 25-year-old would "forever be in the hearts of those that knew him best", they added.

"Steve worked hard, played hard and lived life to the max whether it be skydiving or bungee jumping," the statement from the family said.

MASTER ENGINEER GARY NICHOLSON, RAF LYNEHAM

Master Engineer Gary Nicholson
Master Engineer Nicholson was decorated during his 23-year career

Master Engineer Nicholson, originally from Hull, had been awarded several medals in a "long and distinguished" career spanning 23 years, including an Operational Service Medal for perations in Iraq, the MoD said.

The 42 year old, known as Gary Nic, was "a giant of a man, with a giant heart and ebullient nature".

"Gary was the embodiment of a Master Air Engineer and in the finest traditions of the service, always put the interests of his subordinates before himself," it continued.

Master Engineer Nicholson had two sons.

CPL DAVID WILLIAMS, RAF LYNEHAM

Cpl David Williams
Cpl David Williams was married with three young children

Colleagues of Cpl Williams described him as "a happy-go-lucky character, with a mischievous personality and a dry sense of humour; forever joking, making light of any conditions in any location".

Married with three young children, the 37-year-old was "a devoted husband and proud father".

CHIEF TECHNICIAN RICHARD BROWN, RAF LYNEHAM

Richard Brown
Chief Technician Richard Brown did a lot of charity work

Ch Tech Brown, known as Richie, was described by the Ministry of Defence as "a keen and active sportsman who was always extremely enthusiastic and committed in everything he did".

The 40 year old, from Brixham in Devon, worked tirelessly for charity and had been awarded a commendation in 1998 for his charity work during his time at RAF Kinloss.

FLT LT PAUL PARDOEL, RAF LYNEHAM

Flt Lt Paul Pardoel
Flt Lt Paul Pardoel had been planning to retire

Australian airman Flt Lt Pardoel had moved from Melbourne to the UK where he had lived for three years since joining the RAF.

The 35-year-old father of three is thought to have been the first Australian to die serving in the Iraqi conflict.

His mother, Margaret, said her son had been planning to retire and return to Australia.

"He said to me one night when he phoned: 'Mum, there's nowhere to hide here, it's just so dangerous.'"

FLT LT ANDREW SMITH, RAF LYNEHAM

Flt Lt Andrew Smith
Flt Lt Andrew Smith had always dreamed of joining the RAF

Flight Lieutenant Andrew Smith, 25, from Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, fulfilled a life-long ambition by joining the RAF.

"He was a really funny guy, very loud, and fearless," his brother told the Grimsby Telegraph.

"He was just so proud to have been in the RAF. It was what he always wanted to do. It is all just such a shock," he added.

FLT LT DAVID STEAD, RAF LYNEHAM

Flt Lt David Stead
Flt Lt David Stead was a well-trusted captain
David "Steady" Stead was awarded his pilot's wings in 1993 and joined the Hercules fleet in 1995.

During his career, he spent more than 4,000 hours in the air - 3,800 of which were on the Hercules.

The Ministry of Defence said he was recognised as one of the most capable captains in the fleet, and his crews always showed trust and confidence in his captaincy.

The 35 year old, from West Yorkshire, was known to be straight-talking, with a devilish sense of humour. He was married with two daughters.

SGT ROBERT O'CONNOR, RAF LYNEHAM

Sgt Robert O'Connor
Sgt Robert O'Connor enjoyed sports and station life

Bob O'Connor joined the RAF in 1985 and went on to spend most of his career based at RAF Lyneham.

The Ministry of Defence said the 38-year-old was held in the highest esteem and regard by his work colleagues and superiors for his knowledge, dedication and professionalism.

During tours, he was an active sportsman and a keen participant in all aspects of station life, the MoD said.

SQN LDR PATRICK MARSHALL, RAF HIGH WYCOMBE

Sqn Ldr Patrick Marshall
Sqn Ldr Patrick Marshall was engaged to be married

Sqn Ldr Patrick Marshall joined the RAF in 1990 as a pilot and went on to serve in 11 operational tours.

The 39 year old, from Caythorpe in Lincolnshire, was awarded medals for air operations in Iraq and for his role in Operation Telic, and the Nato Medal for operations in the former Yugoslavia.

The Ministry of Defence described him as a highly regarded and talented operational pilot, who was a well liked and spirited officer with many friends throughout the headquarters and in the wider military community.

Shortly before his death, he had announced he was engaged to be married for a second time.


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