A FORMER South Yorkshire soldier working as a security guard in Iraq was killed in a roadside ambush despite being a passenger in "the best vehicle for the job".
War veteran David Mathews, aged 28, from Barnsley, suffered horrific injuries to both his legs when an explosive device hit the side of the armoured vehicle he was travelling in.
An Iraqi interpreter travelling with him was killed instantly while David died at an American military hospital a few hours later.
They were the first ever victims NOT to survive an attack on one of the
vehicles, an inquest into his death heard.
David, who lived on Bridge Street, Barnsley, with his fiancee Tina Garbutt, previously served as a soldier in Iraq and Kosovo.
He later left the army and returned to Iraq in his role for private security firm AEGIS which was providing protection for the American military's core engineers.
On May 24 last year he was part of a team leading a convoy of vehicles through Baghdad and was acting as lead gunner in the rear of an armoured vehicle at the front of the line.
AEGIS colleague Roger Day, travelling in the front of the same vehicle, described in a statement how their heavily armoured vehicle, known as a REVA 4x4, was hit from the side by an explosive device.
The interpreter, sat behind Mr Day, was killed instantly while Mr Day, who was hit in the legs, the Iraqi driver and a badly injured David all managed to get out the rear door.
"I saw David about 10 feet away and he was trying to pull himself to cover," said Mr Day.
"We were being fired at from both sides."
The men were hauled on to another of the convoy vehicles and driven "at speed" to an American military hospital.
During the journey, Mr Day heard David say: "I am dying mate."
Doctors who treated David, who suffered "traumatic amputation" to both legs in the explosion, recorded his cause of death as 'bilateral lower extremity injuries'.
Anthony Biggs, director of operations for London-based AEGIS, described the armoured REVAs as "the best vehicle for the job we do".
He said the attack during which David was killed was the first time occupants of the "bullet proof" REVAs used by AEGIS had died.
"The vehicles had been damaged in the past but not to this extent and the crew always survived," he said.
Tina, David's dad, also called David Mathews, his mum Dawn Jones and other relatives were among those who attended the Sheffield inquest.
AEGIS has never been able to establish exactly what type of device hit the vehicle or who was responsible and coroner Mr Donald Coutts-Wood recorded a verdict David was "unlawfully killed by persons unknown".
Speaking after the inquest Tina, 25, said: "We are all very, very proud of David and we always will be."
Former Penistone schoolboy David served in the army for around nine years and got engaged to "first love" Tina in 2001. The couple planned to marry this year.
"David left the army to join the emergency services or prison service but when they weren't recruiting he took the security job," said Tina.
"He was very service-focused - it was all army, army, army. He wanted a job working for the uniformed forces.
His dad added: "He was an easy going lad - he would do anything to help anyone.
"He had time for everyone, he loved animals and was a real character."
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