Brits: U.S. probe into friendly-fire deaths finished
November 7, 2007
RAF MILDENHALL, England — The American portion of the investigation into the August friendly-fire deaths of three British soldiers involving a U.S. fighter jet is complete, according to British officials.
Pvts. Aaron McClure, Robert Foster and John Thrumble were killed Aug. 23 when an RAF Lakenheath-based F-15E fighter jet with the 492nd Fighter Squadron inadvertently dropped a bomb on their position in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
The British Ministry of Defence, conducting its own investigation into the accident, was informed last week that the American inquiry has been completed, according to MOD spokesman Charlie Morton.
Officials with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and U.S. Central Command Air Forces did not return requests for comment on the American investigation’s completion by the Stars and Stripes’ deadline on Tuesday.
Morton said the British investigation is ongoing.
Capt. Andy Wolstenholme of the deceased soldiers’ unit, the Royal Anglian Regiment, also said that word came down the “chain of command” last week about the American investigation’s completion.
Morton said this week the MOD is consulting with American officials regarding how much of the investigation British officials will have access to.
Earlier this year, the MOD sent a letter to British coroners warning them not to expect full access to American witnesses or information connected to friendly-fire incidents.
In particular, the letter states that coroners won’t be able to summon American witnesses to testify.
Here, a coroner is a judicial role and the investigation will determine what occurred and if anyone was at fault. They cannot file criminal charges.
The Royal Anglians are based in Bury St. Edmunds, a town of about 50,000 that is a 20-minute drive away from Lakenheath.
In addition to the three soldiers who were killed in the bombing, two others were injured.
Wolstenholme said the men were recovering in the U.K.
“They were seriously injured, but they’re making progress,” he said.