'Live ammo prevented fire rescue of soldier trapped after tank crash'

'Live ammo prevented fire rescue of soldier trapped after tank crash'

October 18, 2021

Soldier, 23, who died after tank rolled over during training on Salisbury Plain ‘could not be freed by firefighters because armoured vehicle was packed with live ammunition’

  • Pvt Jethro Watson-Pickering was killed on a training exercise on Salisbury Plain
  • Reports suggest armoured vehicle overturned and hit tree, trapping crew inside
  • Source claims live ammunition in vehicle stopped fire crew from freeing soldiers
  • Wiltshire Police, the Army and the Health and Safety Executive are investigating 

A soldier who died during an Army training exercise on Salisbury Plain could not be freed because the tank he was trapped in was reportedly full of live ammunition.

Private Jethro Watson-Pickering, 23, of the 1st Yorks Regiment, was part of a crew operating an armoured vehicle in a training area near the village of Enford, Wiltshire, when the incident happened on Friday. 

The soldier was pronounced dead at the scene and a joint investigation between Wiltshire Police, the Army and the Health and Safety Executive has now been launched.

According to the BBC, the vehicle overturned near Enford and hit a tree, trapping several soldiers inside.

Pvt Jethro Watson-Pickering who died during an Army training exercise on Salisbury Plain could not be freed because the tank he was trapped in was reportedly full of live ammunition 

Citing an unnamed source, the BBC added that it took ‘several hours’ for rescuers to free the soldiers because the vehicle was carrying live ammunition.

This meant that fire crews could not use cutting equipment to extricate the soldiers from the overturned vehicle and the task of freeing them fell to the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

Around a dozen officers from Wiltshire Police and the Military of Defence Police were in attendance and an air ambulance was scrambled to the scene.

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service confirmed it sent two fire engines, from Pewsey and Ludgershall, and a heavy rescue unit from Trowbridge to the scene.

A Hazardous Area Response Team, made up of a group of specialist paramedics trained to deal with the most serious of incidents, and several other south Western Ambulance Service ambulance vehicles were seen responding alongside firefighters but Pvt Watson-Pickering was pronounced dead at the scene. 

In a statement, the regiment said: ‘The Yorkshire Regiment very much regrets to announce the death on Friday October 15 of Pte Jethro Watson-Pickering.

‘He was from Boosbeck, Redcar and Cleveland, and was deployed on exercise on Salisbury Plain.

‘The thoughts and prayers of the regimental family are with his family.’

Pvt Watson-Pickering, 23, died from his injuries at the scene after the crash on Friday

Wiltshire Police have launched a joint investigation with the army and health and safety watchdog. Pictured: Police vehicles on scene at the Salisbury Plain training area on Friday

A Wiltshire Police spokesman said: ‘We are investigating the circumstances following the death of a 23-year-old soldier at midday on October 15.

‘He was part of a crew operating an armoured vehicle and was taking part in a military exercise on Salisbury Plain Training Area near the village of Enford.

‘This is now a joint investigation between Wiltshire Police, the Army and the Health and Safety Executive.

‘Our thoughts are with the soldier’s family and friends at this difficult time, and we would ask that their privacy is respected.’

An Army spokesman added: ‘It is with sadness that we can confirm the death of a soldier on Salisbury Plain Training Area.

‘Wiltshire Police are investigating and therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further.’

Reports suggest an armoured vehicle overturned and crashed into a tree, trapping the crew inside and that it took ‘several hours’ for Army engineers to free them. Pictured: Salisbury Plain

It comes as friends took to social media to pay their respects on the The Yorkshire Regiment Facebook page.

Pamela Watson wrote: ‘We are all very shocked at the news. Its lovely to see so many condolences for him. Thank you.

‘Ever since Jethro was a little boy he wanted to be in the army. So it is a small comfort knowing he died doing what he loved. We were all very proud of the man you had become.’

Karen Cooke wrote: ‘Rip so sorry to read this having my daughter on this exercise hits home a bit.

‘Heartfelt condolences to his family and friends and work colleagues.’

Lynn Forrest added: ‘Such sad news, my son is on this exercise and was a very close friend to him, condolences to all his family and friends.’ 

Dale Hopper added: ‘Gutted to hear this. Watson-Pickering was a cadet in my Company before joining the army, there’s a lot of people that will miss him dearly.’

The British Army currently has about 76,500 soldiers, with about 15,000 based around the West Country. 

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