Bomb disposal expert killed by explosive as he cleared Islamic State building in Syria
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A bomb disposal “hero” died after triggering an explosive left by terrorists as he worked to make buildings safe in Syria, an inquest has heard.
Andy Jones, 59, of Penyffordd in Flintshire, was killed by the improvised explosive device (IED) in October 2018 while clearing a building in Raqqa which had previously been occupied by Islamic State forces, his inquest was told.
Recording a narrative conclusion at Chester Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, senior coroner for Cheshire Alan Moore said: “It’s very rare to be able to say this meaningfully about a person but it is certainly true to say Andy was a real hero, one who worked on numerous humanitarian projects over many years.
“He saved lives and he made the world a safer place for those living in the aftermath of armed conflict.”
Mr Jones’s daughter Lucy, 27, said her father, a senior technical field manager who was honoured for bravery while serving with the Army, had worked in Iraq, Kuwait, Mozambique, South Sudan and Afghanistan as well as Syria.
She said: “He worked for 37 years as a bomb disposal expert – this is hard to fathom.”
She said the family had concerns over the way Tetra Tech, the California-based company which Mr Jones was sub-contracted to work for, had dealt with his death. A request by the family to include documents relating to health and safety issues in the inquest was refused by the coroner.
Steve Firkins, who was working with Mr Jones in Syria, said on October 21, 2018, they had been carrying out a clearance at a building. He told the court Mr Jones had finished checking a room which was partially blocked by a pile of rubble and said to him “let’s go home”.
He said: “As I turned that’s when the explosion happened. I was thrown away on to some stairs.” Mr Firkins said he later found Mr Jones lying on the floor, missing parts of both his legs.
He said: “I moved forward to check his pulse and as I put my hand out he suddenly took a gasp of breath.”
The court heard the father-of-three, originally from Little Neston in Cheshire, was taken by an ambulance to a US Army base where he was pronounced dead.
Mr Firkins told the court: “Andy was one of the most professional people I have ever worked with in my life. There is nothing I would have changed that day in the way we worked.”
An incident report from Mr Jones’s employer Ardan found the explosion was believed to have been caused by Mr Jones stepping on a trigger.
David Parry, who worked for Tetra Tech as the country manager for Syria, told the inquest: “The programme was tasked to remove explosive remnants of war throughout north-east Syria and 6,000-plus harmful munitions were cleared from numerous schools and hospitals.
“The legacy he left was the schools and hospitals which he cleared.”
Detective Inspector Richard Gilbert, counter-terrorism police liaison officer for Iraq, said no perpetrators had been identified during the investigation into Mr Jones’s death. He said: “He was, I believe, killed by terrorists in Syria.”
Mr Moore said Mr Jones’s death was caused by severe injuries due to bomb fragments.
Source: Wales Online