Page last updated at 13:29 GMT, Tuesday, 7 October 2008 14:29 UK

Para hit as craft tried to land

Mark Wright
Cpl Wright was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his actions

A mine which killed an Edinburgh soldier in Afghanistan exploded as a hovering rescue helicopter tried to land, an inquest has heard.

An inquest in Oxford heard how Corporal Mark Wright, 27, died after being caught by the blast as the Chinook descended during a rescue attempt.

Cpl Wright, of The Parachute Regiment's 3rd Battalion, based in Colchester, was posthumously awarded the George Cross.

Six others were injured, including three who lost limbs in the explosion.

It has previously been suggested that the mine was set off by the helicopter's downdraft in the region of Kajaki in Helmand Province on 6 September 2006.

An inquest into his death at Oxford Coroner's Court heard on Tuesday the platoon was protecting the area around Kajaki Dam.

My first thoughts were to get him out of there and why they were there in the first place
Sgt Paul McMellon

Sgt Paul McMellon told the hearing he was on a control point about a kilometre away from the minefield when the tragedy happened.

He said when he arrived he was told the whole area was mined and booby-trapped.

He said on 6 September the communications were down and there was only contact every hour between observation points because there were not enough batteries for the radios.

He told the court at about midday he heard an explosion and immediately turned on the radio and was told two snipers had gone on patrol and one had stood on a mine.

Sgt McMellon said he should have been informed of the patrol, adding that he would never have sent two soldiers out on their own into enemy territory "in the middle of nowhere".

He said: "My first thoughts were to get him out of there and why they were there in the first place.

"It is a lot easier to winch them out than to clear an area for a helicopter to land.

"I was told that there was no helicopter with winches available - there was only a Chinook.

"I told them to send it. That was the only way he was going to get out of there."

Missing limbs

The inquest was told that the Chinook arrived about an hour-and-a-half later, by which time a further mine strike had injured another soldier.

Sgt McMellon said he heard four explosions in total.

He added: "When the Chinook descended it took off again and was flying around the general area. It was trying to find a place to land.

"It came in again and disappeared over the ridge. It took off again because it couldn't pick them up and basically went.

"We were told there was an explosion as it was trying to land. I didn't hear it personally. The mine strike hit Cpl Wright."

The inquest heard three-and-a-half hours following the first explosion, an American Blackhawk helicopter arrived to winch the injured soldiers to safety.

Sgt McMellon added: "Some of them managed to walk out of the minefield, the lucky ones. The others missing limbs had to be extracted."

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