Page last updated at 19:19 GMT, Thursday, 7 May 2009 20:19 UK

Inquest of Afghan blast soldier

Cpl Jason Barnes
Cpl Barnes would have died instantly in the explosion, the inquest heard

A soldier was killed as he drove a makeshift ambulance back to base after assisting in the evacuation of an injured comrade, an inquest has heard.

Cpl Jason Barnes, who lived in Exeter, Devon, died on 22 July last year when his vehicle hit a mine in Afghanistan.

The 25-year-old Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer was attached to the Parachute Regiment.

Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray recorded a narrative verdict that Cpl Barnes was killed on active service.

The inquest at Chelmsford, Essex heard troops had been defending a hydro-electric plant near Kajaki.

Trained armourer

Major Grant Haywood told the hearing that, during clashes with the Taleban, L/Cpl Tom Neathway had been injured in an explosion.

Cpl Barnes, who was driving a military doctor, was sent to meet L/Cpl Neathway while a helicopter was called to airlift the injured soldier to safety.

While returning to base, Cpl Barnes's Vector vehicle, which was being used as an ambulance, struck a mine.

The inquest heard the family of Cpl Barnes, who was married and had been based in Colchester, Essex, had concerns about why he had been driving the makeshift ambulance.

Maj Haywood told the hearing: "The raw fact was that, in Kajaki, we were limited by numbers."

'Well looked after'

Captain Matt Boyd, of the Royal Army Medical Corp, who was treating two soldiers in the back of the vehicle when the blast happened, told the inquest the front of the vehicle had been "trashed" and that Cpl Barnes' death would have been "pretty much instantaneous".

Cpl Barnes joined the Army as a 16-year-old in 1999 and later specialised in maintaining weapons as an armourer.

After the inquest his widow Diane said her husband had been well looked after by the Army, while his mother, Beverley Barnes, said she had been able to ask the questions she wanted to and was satisfied with the answers.

"I felt sorry for the poor young men who had to relive it," she said.

Following the hearing, the MoD confirmed Vector vehicles were being withdrawn from frontline action to cope with the "evolving threat from larger improvised explosive devices".

In a statement, an MoD spokesman said: "Our thoughts and sympathies remain with the family, friends and former colleagues of Cpl Barnes at this difficult time.

"We have noted the Coroner's comments and will consider these along side the findings of our own investigations, to ensure that we learn lessons from this tragic incident."

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