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Inquest jury to probe death of British soldier in diving accident

A JURY will probe how a British soldier came to die on a military diving course, a coroner has ruled.

Katy Skerrett, the senior coroner for Gloucestershire, has said that jurors must be called to sit for five days between March and May 2020 to investigate the death of Lance Corporal George Partridge.

The 27-year-old drowned at the National Dive Centre in Tidenham, Gloucestershire, on March 26 last year. His wife Zoe was expecting their first child.

Members of LCpl Partridge’s family attended a second pre-inquest review today, where they were represented pro bono by Sean Brunton QC.

Julian Tuvey, a diving specialist from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), was also present.

The HSE has prepared an interim report on the case and the agency has the power to bring enforcement action.

The Royal Navy has already published a “service report” into the tragedy, which found that staff knew some of LCpl Partridge’s equipment was faulty — as previously reported by the Morning Star.

Though many inquests sit without a jury, Ms Skerrett believes it may be possible that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) breached its duty of care to LCpl Partridge. 

Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights would therefore require that jurors adjudicate on the matter.

Ms Skerrett ordered the MoD to “fully disclose” to her six bundles of evidence which the military holds on the incident within 28 days.

The family’s barrister welcomed the move and said they had been “seeking disclosure for some time,” particularly to understand why a Royal Navy surgeon commander had been allowed to attend the post-mortem.

Mr Brunton said the post-mortem evidence was in “unfortunate state and it may well be that surgeon commander can shed some light on that.”

The post-mortem identified “sudden death in adults” as the cause of death. A pathologist said that LCpl Partridge had had a rare heart anomaly which was undiagnosed and hard to detect.

But LCpl Partridge was known as an “extremely fit” soldier who had received a prize for being the fittest recruit on his army basic training course.

He also played rugby and football for his regiment, the Wiltshire-based 26 Engineers.

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