Page last updated at 02:07 GMT, Wednesday, 23 March 2005

Hercules crash inquests opening

Hercules aircraft
Ten servicemen died when the Hercules came down in Iraq

Inquests are due to open into the deaths of 10 servicemen from RAF Lyneham, who died when their Hercules plane crashed in Iraq.

The Wiltshire-based crew's plane crashed near Baghdad on 30 January, on the day Iraq held historic elections.

The Ministry of Defence has ruled out sabotage and mechanical failure but has not yet discounted Iraqi insurgents' claims that the plane was shot down.

The bodies will be released for burial after the inquest in Trowbridge.

A Royal Air Force interim report said the cause of the crash was not yet known.

Strike Command

It dismissed several possible causes including a lightning strike, engine fire or a collision.

Investigators were still looking into other possible causes for the crash, the MoD said.

The inquest was due to take place at Trowbridge Magistrates' Court.

The Lyneham crew members killed were Flt Lt David Stead, 35, Flt Lt Andrew Smith, 25, Flt Lt Paul Pardoel, 35, Master Engineer Gary Nicholson, 42, Chief Technician Richard Brown, 40, Flt Sgt Mark Gibson, 34, and Sgt Robert O'Connor, 38. Cpl David Williams, 37, was also from Lyneham and also on board.

The ninth RAF man on board, Sqn Ldr Patrick Marshall, 39, was from Strike Command Headquarters at RAF High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and a passenger.

Acting L/Cpl Steven Jones, 25, was a soldier serving with the Royal Signals and was serving as a crew member on the Hercules.



SEE ALSO
US airmen ground Hercules planes
12 Feb 05 |  Americas
Memorials held for plane victims
06 Feb 05 |  Wiltshire

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