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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February, 2005, 12:09 GMT
Welshman among Iraq crash troops
Mark Gibson
Mr Gibson followed his father into the RAF
Tributes have been paid to an airman from Cardiff who was among 10 men missing presumed killed when an RAF Hercules crashed in Iraq on Sunday.

Flight Sergeant Mark Gibson, 34, who grew up in Cardiff and Pembrokeshire, was named by the MoD on Tuesday.

An air-load master, Mr Gibson was married with a daughter and served with 47 squadron based at RAF Lyneham.

The plane crashed 25 miles (40km) north-west of Baghdad on its way to an air base at Balad.

Speaking to the BBC News website on Tuesday, Mr Gibson's cousin Clare Bateman-Jones, a nurse from Cardiff, said: "It has come as a great shock to us as we did not know he was in Iraq.

"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."

Mr Gibson went to school in Rhiwbina and Llandaff before the family moved to Pembrokeshire, where his father, Sam Gibson, was based at RAF Brawdy.

"Mark followed his father into the airforce and made him very proud. They were a smashing family."
Terry Dyer

After finishing off his schooling in west Wales, Mark was keen to follow in the footsteps of his father, Sam, who had made his career in the RAF.

He leaves a wife Sheila and young daughter Poppy who live in Swindon, his father and step-mother and two younger brothers - Neil, also a load master in the RAF, and Paul.

Terry Dyer, from Haverfordwest Royal Air Force Association, knew Mr Gibson's family when they lived at RAF Brawdy.

He told BBC Radio Wales: "Sam, his father, was a member of the branch committee until he had a family tragedy. His wife died and he moved away from the county.

"The last time I saw them as a family was unfortunately at Mark's mother's funeral. So there has been tragedy in the family in the past.

'Proud'

"My heartfelt thoughts go out to them and I know I'm saying it on behalf of the branch.

Flowers at RAF Lyneham
Tributes have been left at the plane's base in Wiltshire

"Mark followed his father into the airforce and made him very proud. They were a smashing family."

A tribute on the Ministry of Defence's website described Mr Gibson as having "ebullient enthusiasm" for his work, adding he was one of "life's entertainers".

Meanwhile, the inquiry into why the Hercules came down is continuing in Iraq and the UK has sent a senior official to investigate.

The Al-Jazeera TV channel has broadcast apparent claims by insurgents that they shot down the aircraft. The Ministry of Defence has not verified this.

The MoD says the plane was on a routine transport flight.

The nine other men killed have been named as Squadron Leader Patrick Marshall, Flight Lieutenant David Stead, Flight Lieutenant Andrew Smith, Flight Lieutenant Paul Pardoel, Master Engineer Gary Nicholson, Chief Technician Richard Brown, Sergeant Robert O'Connor, Corporal David Williams and Acting Lance Corporal Steven Jones.


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