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  • Christina Drummond

Lance Corporal Sean Tansey, the Life Guards

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2006, Lance Corporal Sean Tansey, the Life Guards, died in an accident in Afghanistan.

Lance Corporal Tansey had joined the army in 1999, joining the Household Cavalry Regiment after training. He served within the Reconnaissance Sabre Troops, first as an Armoured Reconnaissance vehicle driver in HQ Squadron, then with D Squadron as a gunner and operator. He deployed with D Squadron to Iraq in 2003. There and in Afghanistan, as the Troop Leader’s operator, he was noted for being a huge asset to the squadron, an outstanding gunner and Driving and Maintenance Instructor, and he had recently qualified as a Regimental Combat Medical Technician (Class 2). He is remembered as a quiet and thoughtful young man.

On the day of his death, he and a corporal had been working on a Spartan's broken torsion bar when the vehicle pitched forward, trapping Lance Corporal Tansey. The other soldier related at the inquest how the vehicle could not be lifted from his body until a forklift arrived, as there was no adequate jack available. A Sergeant Major from of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers told the coroner that cushioning planks, known as "skidding", employed to stop falling vehicles crushing soldiers, would have saved his life – the corporal who had been working with Lance Corporal Tansey stated that they had no such planks, only "some bits of shitty old pallet" and wood that they had found in a nearby orchard. The coroner asked if soldiers could refuse to do repair work on health and safety grounds, to which the corporal replied: "That's not the way the Army works. If you are told to do something, you do it." The assistant deputy coroner commented: "This was a matter for the MoD. It shouldn't be for soldiers to go foraging in a hostile environment to find chocks and skidding. The soldiers are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they repair a vehicle and it results in tragedy, they face criticism for that but they have no alternative but to make repairs. These are bits of wood – they are not expensive. I cannot begin to imagine the suffering of Lance Corporal Tansey's family. It seems to me that, from the beginning, they understood this was a tragedy that should not have happened. This court has heard evidence of the failure to provide basic equipment for the maintenance of vehicles, which has been described by one witness as amounting to a gross or serious failure. It is quite unfair that the soldiers should be criticised when their training was not adequate and equipment was not sufficient. For this reason, Lance Corporal Tansey lost his life. His death was contributed to by neglect." An MoD spokesman said: "Alongside the findings of the Royal Military Police and MoD's own investigations, we note the Coroner's comments and will ensure lessons are learnt from this tragic incident."

Lt Col Edward Smyth-Osbourne, Commanding Officer of the Household Cavalry Regiment, said: “LCpl Tansey was a bright and intelligent soldier, an extremely competent and utterly dependable operator. Always smart, always hard working, he was a very experienced reconnaissance soldier, who was not only respected professionally but was also a charming individual, hugely popular among his peers. With his death the Household Cavalry has suffered the loss of another exceptionally talented member of the Regiment.”

Sean, from Washington, Tyne and Wear, was 26 years old.

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