A SUPERFIT soldier who collapsed and died on a training run the day after his 26th birthday was the victim of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, an inquest has heard.

Private Michael Ihemere, an Afghanistan veteran, took part in a run at Catterick Garrison – carrying a 35lb pack and a rifle - just to enjoy the exercise, which started at 8.10am.

But tragedy struck after he had completed more than two-thirds of the three-mile route when he was being urged towards the finish line by Corporal James Johnson.

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He was running steadily until he reached a hill where Cpl Johnson was yelling "Keep going. You're doing well" at the men coming over the crest.

The corporal told the Northallerton hearing that as the Nigerian-born soldier approached he was "shuffling" forward with his head down.

He continued: "His eyes were distant. He just looked straight through me like he did not realise I was there."

Pte Ihemere collapsed and Cpl Johnson and Sergeant Michael Chambers tried and failed to get any response and could detect only a faint pulse in his neck.

The day on August 28 last year was cool and overcast but the pair still loosened his uniform and used their canteens to wet his lips and splash his chest and neck.

Sgt Chambers said: "I could hear him wheezing and groaning and struggling to breathe. He then let out a loud groan and stopped ?breathing."

Desperate attempts were made to revive the dying man with heart massage and the kiss of life which continued ?as he was placed in an Army wagon and driven to a nearby hut

Ambulance service medics took over the CPR but the private was declared dead at 9.25am.

Pte Ihemere joined the British Army in the summer of 2011 and served in Afghanistan last year with 1 Battalion the Mercian Regiment, sharing a tent with Lance Corporal Liam Hare, who was just behind him on the run.

L/ Cpl Hare ran past his fallen comrade never dreaming anything was wrong until he finished the race and was told his friend had died.

"I just thought he had tripped or something. I did not think it was anything serious,” he told coroner Rob Turnbull.

Consultant pathologist Jan Lowe said the exact cause of death was unascertained but the balance of probabilities was the soldier's heart had stopped due to an irregularity - the problem linked to the sudden death of young people while exercising.

The soldier did not drink or smoke and toxicology tests had proved negative and heat exhaustion had also been ruled out.

Mr Turnbull recorded a verdict of death by natural causes.