…By for TDPel Media.
A Royal Marine, Benjamin McQueen, aged 26, lost his life during a rigorous military training exercise for elite unit operations.
The incident occurred on November 14, 2018, in Portland Harbour, Dorset, where he drowned after being separated from his fellow divers.
Despite efforts to revive him, he was declared dead, and a subsequent post-mortem examination confirmed drowning as the cause of death.
The majority of the inquest proceedings were kept confidential due to national security concerns.
The Tragic Incident:
The judge coroner, Sir Ernest Ryder, revealed that on the fateful day, Benjamin McQueen experienced complications during a diving drill in Portland Harbour.
While attempting authorized emergency drills, his breathing apparatus rapidly depleted, and he recovered from the sea bed at a depth of approximately 18 meters.
Despite attempts at CPR, he could not be revived and was pronounced dead at 7.17 pm.
The Journey of a Royal Marine:
Mr. McQueen became a Royal Marine in September 2010 and joined 45 Commando in Arbroath, Scotland.
His dedication and bravery were recognized when he was deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Herrick 14, for which he received the Operational Service Medal.
At the time of his tragic death, he had recently become a member of an elite unit.
The Details of the Incident:
During the diving exercise, the sea was calm, but limited underwater visibility posed a challenge as it transitioned from dusk to night.
Two diving tasks were undertaken, with one completed successfully by divers who exited the water.
However, complications arose when Benjamin and the other divers encountered a subsurface obstacle, leading to a sequence of unfortunate events.
These complications were deemed accidental, but questions arose regarding their foreseeability.
Contributing Factors to the Tragedy:
The lack of a requirement for all signals to be acknowledged was identified as a contributory factor in Benjamin’s death, as it missed the opportunity to abort the dive when he faced difficulties and was not ready to proceed.
Additionally, he had to grapple with underwater entanglement, which complicated the situation further.
The events unfolded rapidly from that point onward, leading to the tragic outcome.
The Family’s Perspective:
In a joint statement, Benjamin McQueen’s parents expressed their belief that their son’s death could have been prevented.
They raised concerns about the time it took to locate him and bring him to the surface, believing that the organization he trusted failed him.
Despite their grief, they found hope in knowing that his legacy would bring about significant changes in dive training and ethos across the forces.
Coroner’s Conclusions and Recommendations:
Sir Ernest Ryder attributed Benjamin’s death to various factors, including the failure to top up breathable gas levels between dives and the lack of a training requirement for acknowledging all signals.
He also highlighted inadequate risk assessment for using equipment during the exercise and insufficiently firm instructions for student divers to surface.
As a result of his findings, Sir Ernest intends to issue a prevention of future deaths report to the Defence Secretary, recommending actions such as carrying spare breathing apparatus cylinders in safety boats and avoiding visits by senior-ranking officers during safety-critical training.
He also calls for the availability of defibrillators during specific diving training.
Comprehensive Safety Measures:
The coroner acknowledged that significant changes had been made to military diving training since Benjamin’s death.
He praised the comprehensive and far-reaching review of policies, practices, and organizational structures, which significantly reduced the risk of future fatalities during such exercises.