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Coroner retires to consider verdict in soldier deaths inquest
Updated 5:55pm Tuesday 20th May 2014 in News
A CORONER has retired to consider his conclusions over the deaths of two British soldiers who died in a fire that engulfed their tent as they slept at Camp Bastion.
Privates Dean Hutchinson, 23, from Spennymoor, County Durham, and Rob Wood, 28, from Hampshire, were killed when the blaze broke out in the Transport Troop tent in the early hours of February 14, 2011.
The soldiers, who served with The Royal Logistical Corps, were sleeping in the tented office so they could respond more quickly when supplies arrived at the military base.
Fire investigators concluded that the blaze started in the vicinity of a flat-screen TV, boiler and air conditioning unit and quickly spread - igniting combustible materials nearby.
Following the deaths, a number of changes have been made to improve safety for troops using tents, Wiltshire Coroner's Court was told today (May 20).
Families of the soldiers have "serious concerns" the tent did not appear to have an accessible fire exit, working smoke alarm and was too long, the inquest heard.
Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner David Ridley told the hearing there were issues raised during the week-long hearing which he would consider.
"That concludes the evidence I have had presented before me," Mr Ridley said. "I did give an indication as to where I am going in this case.
"I am minded there are a couple of areas I want to take on in a recommendation 28 report.
"From the families' perspective, I cannot make recommendations, all I will be asking them (the Ministry of Defence) to do is look at it."
Mr Ridley said the MoD would respond to his concerns within 56 days, with the soldiers' families about to see the correspondence.
"It may be that some of the things I am asking have already been resolved and if that is the case, then great," Mr Ridley said.
A number of recommendations have been implemented following investigations into the deaths, the hearing was told.
Guidance to help establish whether a tent is in a safe condition has been incorporated into the Army Equipment Support Publication.
Ross Fenton, of the Defence Fire Risk Management Organisation, said accommodation used by British soldiers must now have two exits.
"There's a requirement for the exit to be readily available," he said.
The inquest previously heard evidence the tent was not on Camp Bastion's asset register - a document kept by the Army and facilities contractor KBR listing all building and structures the US firm was responsible for.
But Colonel Nicholas Freeman, strategic head of the Defence Inquest Unit, said he had been informed the Army and KBR often advised each other of assets not listed.
"It was routine," Colonel Freeman said.
The inquest was adjourned until Thursday afternoon, when Mr Ridley will return his conclusions.