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Three soldiers killed in crash at nearly 100mph.

THREE young soldiers who had all served in Afghanistan died when their car crashed at nearly 100mph on a country road in Pembrokeshire.

A Milford Haven inquest heard yesterday that their bodies were not discovered for 12 hours after the sound of the crash was dismissed as thunder.

Corporal Dan Ginty, 26, ofWelwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, Corporal James "Jimmy" Luton, 24, of Belvedere, Kent, and driver Lieutenant Corporal Chris Beckett, 25, ofTelford, were all based at Cawdor Barracks, Brawdy, with the 14th Signal Regiment (Electronic Warfare).

Before they died on February 14 this year they had been watching the Wales-England rugby international on TV at the barracks. Corporals Ginty and Luton decided to go into Haverfordwest for a night out and Lieutenant-Corporal Beckett, who was due on duty half an hour later and had not been drinking, gave them a lift.

The inquest heard from tests at the crash site, on the A487 near the Victoria Inn in the Pembrokeshire village of Roch, his silver Skoda Fabia had been travelling as fast as 96mph.

PC Michael John, the accident investigator, said the car left the road via a grass bank and would have flown through the air before hitting a wall.

It was found around 120ft from the road next to the pub.

Julie Thomas, who runs theVictoria Inn with her husband Anthony, heard what she thought was a clap of thunder at around 7.30pm.

She left the pub later on and noticed turf on the road, but thought nothing of it because of the farm nearby.

She returned to the pub the following morning and, when returning home a short time later at about 8am, noticed there had been an accident.

She called her husband and he discovered the crash scene.

Coroner Michael Howells recorded three narrative verdicts. Corporal Ginty and Lieutenant Corporal Beckett were said to have died from brain injuries, while Corporal Luton died from a spinal cord injury.

Leader of the men's regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Tim Carmichael, said Cpl Ginty was one of the regiment's "rising stars".

He said: "Having already served in Iraq and Afghanistan, he volunteered to return to Helmand Province and was due back there.

"So it is all the more sad that he should die in a road traffic accident so near to home."

The coroner said he had reason to believe Lieutenant Corporal Beckett was a "first class" and "reliable" officer.

"Already in this, his first assignment in the Royal Signals, Chris had faced the tough challenge of an operational tour in Helmand Province," he said.

"To have returned from there and yet have his life cut short within a few miles of my regiment's base in Pembrokeshire is particularly tragic."

He added Corporal Luton was "a fine man and a capable soldier with a ready smile".

The inquest heard officer cadet Jamie Harle had planned to travel in the car to Haverfordwest with the other men but had not been ready in time to go.

Mr Howells said it had been a difficult morning for the families but no stone had been left unturned in the investigation.

He extended his sympathies to the families and said the accident had been a "dreadful occurrence".
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 17, 2009
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