An inquest heard that a teenage soldier was fatally shot during a nighttime live-fire practice by a fellow soldier who could not see in the dark despite wearing night vision goggles.
At August 2016, Private Conor McPherson, 24 years old and from Paisley, Renfrewshire, was killed on the military ranges in Otterburn, Northumberland.
The soldier who fired the fatal shot during the training exercise was unaware that he had accidentally shot his fellow soldier until he had left the range.
Private McPherson, a member of A Company, 3 Scots – The Black Watch, was one of the five troops who participated in the drill.
In August of 2016, Private Conor McPherson, 24 years old, was shot during a training exercise at the military ranges in Otterburn, Northumberland.
A jury inquiry in Morpeth, Northumberland, has heard that Private McPherson was killed by a bullet that penetrated his helmet while another soldier was firing at a rigid target.
Despite wearing night vision goggles, he told the Northumberland Coroner’s Court that he was unable to see Private McPherson or the intended target because “it was absolutely black.”
The investigation revealed that the soldier had fallen behind the group after sliding, but caught up with them as they advanced downrange.
When instructed to shoot at targets, a fellow soldier mistakenly shot upon Private McPherson.
Private McPherson fell to the ground after a shot was fired in response to the command to attack the targets.
As he pulled the trigger, the soldier informed the jury he assumed Private McPherson was to his left.
The safety officer behind me then shouted, “Stop,” he added.
I believed that was part of the range’s scenario.
The safety supervisor who was accompanying the team said, “I saw him fall, and generally when a person falls, they immediately get back up, but I never saw him move.”
The safety supervisor, who was trailing the fire team as it traversed the range, approached the lagging soldier.
The supervisor stated, “When I approached him, I immediately recognized he was in a potentially dangerous situation and urged him to move forward.”
The court heard that Private McPherson then fell to the ground.
The safety supervisor said, “I only noticed some leftward movement.” It lasted only one instant. I observed him falling, and generally when a person falls, they rise back up, but I never saw him move.
As I approached him, I immediately screamed out “Stop.”
Despite attempts at resuscitation, Private McPherson was declared dead at the spot.
The court heard that another participant in the exercise had difficulty identifying the targets and was instructed not to fire.
The court was informed that the soldiers should have been able to identify the targets using their night-vision goggles despite the absence of thermal tape.
Since January 2000, 155 members of the British armed forces have died during training, including 17 during live-fire drills.
Dr. Jennifer Bolton, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy, concluded that Private McPherson was unaware of the occurrence.
At the time of the incident, five troops were practicing at Otterburn, the largest fire range in the United Kingdom.
She stated, “He died from a brain injury caused by a gunshot wound to the head.” The head injury rendered him unconscious immediately.
He would not have known about it. He would have felt absolutely nothing. As soon as the injury was caused, nothing could have been done to alter the outcome.
Private McPherson joined the Royal Regiment of Scotland as a combat infantryman in May of 2014.
His commanding commander Lieutenant Colonel Alasdair Steele eulogized the young soldier following his death in 2016, stating, ‘Private McPherson was a capable young soldier who had trained in both Kenya and France.
He aspired to join the machine gun unit and attend a junior leadership course at the beginning of the following year.
He was well-liked by his contemporaries for his keen wit and sense of humor, and he was continually striving to improve himself physically.
However, Private McPherson’s genuine devotion was to his parents and his older sister; he was a member of a close-knit family, and his greatest pleasure was spending time with them on weekends and during leave.
The investigation into the death of Private McPherson continues.