Family speaks out after RAF death inquest verdict

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Family speaks out after RAF death inquest verdict

19th September 2013

Ministry of Defence “dishonoured and disrespected” young airman after Cyprus speedboat death, says family

The family of Scott Michael Hughes, who died whilst serving in the Royal Air Force almost three years ago, has criticised the Ministry of Defence following a four-day inquest which found that ‘systemic failings’ contributed to the 20-year-old’s death.

The inquest in Llandudno heard how Scott, who was attached to 1 Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment, had completed a six-month tour of frontline duty in Afghanistan on Operation Herrick in November 2010. Together with 127 other members of his unit, he had arrived in Cyprus on the way home to undergo a mandatory period of post-deployment ‘decompression’.

Senior Aircraftman Hughes, from Gwynedd, was taking part in water sports at the Military Training Wing Water Sports Centre, on Tunnel Beach, Episkopi, when he sustained serious head injuries after being hit by a speedboat. He died at Limassol General Hospital, Cyprus, two days later on 7 November 2010.

After hearing all the evidence during a four-day inquest, the Area Coroner for North West Wales Nicola Jones recorded a narrative verdict in which she stated that systemic failures in the decompression unit's management safety system had contributed to Scott’s death.

“Scott Hughes fell from the inflatable donut and went unnoticed by the driver and observer,” said Ms Jones. “The boat then went over Mr Scott Hughes, and when (he was) under the boat the driver engaged reverse, causing fatal injuries.

“There was systemic failure as no safe management safety system was put in place, which played a contributory factor in the death of Scott Hughes.”

Speaking after the inquest, Scott’s mother Emma heavily criticised the MoD for failing to protect her son. “Scott was prepared to put his life on the line to defend his country and in return his employer, the Ministry of Defence, catastrophically failed to take care of him whilst he was undertaking duties on a decompression activity in Cyprus. This ultimately led to the loss of his very young, exciting and full life,” she said.

“Scott’s whole life and very promising career within the RAF have been cut short by failures at the Ministry of Defence which have been noted in this inquest.

“We as the family have endured almost three long years of pure hell waiting for this inquest to take place in our quest to find all of the truth about what happened to our precious son, Scott.

“The Ministry of Defence has caused us considerable heartache and distress by failing to support us in every aspect of this living nightmare. In particular with regard to this inquest, the MoD has failed to assist us with legal representation whilst providing other parties involved with legal support,” said Mrs Hughes.

“We have great difficulty in understanding the reasons why the MoD has dishonoured, disrespected and shown total disregard for our very much loved son.

“Scott gallantly and courageously served his country with pride and honour. Their failure to support us in the heartbreaking loss of our talented, articulate and beautiful son, has compounded our grief and continues to astound us. We are extremely relieved that the truth of this wholly avoidable catastrophe has finally been heard.”

Military legal expert Mark McGhee, a partner with Fentons Solicitors LLP, represented Scott’s parents Michael and Emma at the inquest.

“Unsurprisingly the Coroner’s findings have confirmed what we and Scott’s family have believed for almost three years - that the tragic death of this fine young man was wholly avoidable,” said Mr McGhee.

“Such failures went to the root of the safety management system which should have been in operation at the time of Scott’s death. Following today’s verdict we will be vigorously pursuing a substantial civil claim against the Ministry of Defence,” he said.

Coverage: BBC News, ITV News, Daily Post Wales Online BBC Radio Wales (from 1:06.53)