A MASSIVE Taliban bomb blast killed a young South Yorkshire soldier in an area which was meant to be clear of devices.
Medics fought to save Trooper James Leverett, aged 20, from Rawmarsh, Rotherham, but he was pronounced dead less than two hours after the blast in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
His vehicle was hit by a bomb containing up to 40 kilogrammes of explosives, buried underground. Several bombs were later found in the area.
Coroner Nicola Mundy recorded a verdict that the dad-of-one had been unlawfully killed in action.
James, of the Royal Dragoon Guards, was driving the third of three Viking armoured vehicles heading to relieve colleagues providing security for engineers building a road, Route Trident, between Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand and another large town, Gereshk.
The fatal explosion, on July 5, 2010, was in an area earmarked for a new checkpoint. It had been checked visually for signs of bombs, such as disturbed ground. But it had not been checked with a metal detector. Company commander Major Charlie Crowe said he was ‘confident it was clear of devices’.
The site, a dry desert, had been kept under constant watch after the officer and his colleagues carried out a recce the previous day, to ensure insurgents did not plant bombs.
Sgt Ralph Barber, who was watching the convoy, turned to speak to his soldiers when he ‘heard a large explosion’.
“I knew it was a vehicle straight away. I saw the first vehicle but the second and third were in a dust cloud.”
The other Vikings turned to provide cover from Taliban attack while medics went to James and his vehicle commander, Lance Corporal Wynn Austin, who had been blown out of the Viking and suffered severe leg injuries.
Trooper Carl Hook, who was the first to reach James, said: “He had been blown 15 metres from the vehicle. I was shouting but didn’t get any reply although he twice made a noise as if trying to clear his throat. He was not wearing his armour or helmet.”
James and L/Cpl Austin were airlifted to the hospital at Camp Bastion. James was pronounced dead at 9.30am.
The ground was baked hard but would have been softened by the first two Vikings and the pressure of the third was sufficient to trigger the blast.
Vikings are being phased out of combat in Afghanistan and replaced with more heavily-armoured Warthogs.
James’s mum, Sharon said after the inquest: “It’s been a hard day but we now have some closure and I am satisfied with the verdict. It’s just a shame all we have left of James are memories.”
James’s girlfriend, Tiffany Lound, who was pregnant with their son when James was kiilled in Afghanistan, was at the inquest but declined to comment.
Sgt Ralph Barber said: “He was one of those lads who never failed to make you smile but he was wiser than his years and mature in attitude, although having been not long out of training.”
Cpl Paul Dickinson said: “He would be the one to bring you up when you were down and help you forget the situation you were in.”