Ely Mum Takes On The Might Of The MOD

PUBLISHED: 15:13 27 May 2009 | UPDATED: 10:54 04 May 2010

Robert O'Connor

Robert O'Connor

A ELY mum has taken on the might of the MOD after her son died when the military transport aircraft he was travelling aboard was shot down by insurgents over Iraq and the plane was later found to be ill-equipped. Lynda O Connor of St John s Road, Ely is

A ELY mum has taken on the might of the MOD after her son died when the military transport aircraft he was travelling aboard was shot down by insurgents over Iraq and the plane was later found to be ill-equipped.

Lynda O'Connor of St John's Road, Ely is one of a number of relatives and next-of- kin who are pursuing legal action in the High Court after an inquest into the deaths of 10 servicemen ruled there has been 'serious systemic failures' by the Ministry of Defence.

Mrs O'Connor's son, Sergeant Robert O'Connor, 38, was killed in January 2005 when their Hercules XV179 aircraft was hit from the ground and exploded into flames soon after taking off from Baghdad airport.

In his ruling, coroner David Masters, criticised a failure by the MoD to fit the aircraft with an explosion suppressant foam (ESF) despite recommendations to do so from a military research report in 2002, which could have prevented the aircraft from bursting into flames

As a result of the inquest, nine family members of the dead men, including Mrs O'Connor, are suing the MoD under the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Human Rights Act, claiming that the MoD failed to ensure that the Hercules was fitted with the proper equipment or that sufficient intelligence had been provided.

Sergeant O'Connor joined the Royal Air Force as an Apprentice in 1985, after which he was posted to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire, the home base for all Hercules planes, where he spent the vast majority of his service career serving with the engineering wing.

In a statement, the MOD expressed its sympathies for the families of the men who died in the incident and re-iterated a desire to learn lessons for the future.

"The families of these men, and their former colleagues in the Armed Forces, have suffered a great loss and they are foremost in our thoughts at this difficult time.

"It is clear that the loss of the aircraft was due to enemy action. However, the inquest has highlighted a number of factors that contributed to this incident.

"We were not able to provide the crew of the aircraft with all the up-to-date intelligence and tactical advice concerning potential vulnerabilities. For these shortcomings, I would like to apologise, on behalf of the RAF and the MOD.

"We as an organisation are determined to learn the lessons highlighted by this tragic loss."

All the families involved in the proceedings are being represented by Smithfield Partners, the law firm who brought a successful landmark action against the MoD on behalf of families of servicemen killed when their Nimrod spy plane exploded in 2006.

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