Page last updated at 13:00 GMT, Wednesday, 23 March 2005

Hercules 'sent distress signal'

Hercules C130K
Ten servicemen died when the Hercules came down in Iraq

The RAF Hercules which crashed in Iraq killing 10 British servicemen sent a distress signal eight minutes after take off, an inquest has heard.

Wiltshire coroner David Masters said the aircraft took off at 1622 GMT on 30 January from Baghdad airport en route to a coalition air base in Iraq.

Attempts were made to establish the location of the aircraft at the time of the distress call.

However, nothing else was heard and rescue teams were sent out.

At 1720 GMT the crash site was located about 40kms (25 miles) north west of Baghdad.

Cause investigated

The coroner read out the statement at the opening of the inquest into the deaths of the men.

The crash - the single largest loss of British life in Iraq since military action began in 2003 - happened on the day Iraq held historic elections.

The cause is still being investigated.

The inquest was opened at Trowbridge Magistrates' Court in Wiltshire near the men's base at RAF Lyneham.

The Lyneham crew members who were 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.

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

The inquest was opened and adjourned on Wednesday.

The men's bodies have now been released for burial.

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06 Feb 05 |  Wiltshire

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