British officer faces manslaughter charges for deadly training accident

| December 13, 2017 | 38 Comments

The UK’s Telegraph reports that Ranger Michael Maguire of 1st Bn The Royal Irish Regiment, an Afghanistan veteran, was killed in a training accident in May 2012, for which Captain Jonathan Price, the Range Officer, is facing manslaughter charges in a British court next year.

Maguire was eating his lunch nearly a thousand yards away when a stray round from a machinegun stuck him in the head.

Two other soldiers, Lt Col Richard Bell and CSgt Stuart Pankhurst, who dealt with health and safety on the exercise have been charged with negligently performing a duty.

The exercise had seen troops fire live rounds at both static and pop-up targets.


The most recent Ministry of Defence figures show 141 soldiers, sailors and airmen have died on training or exercises since 2000. Fifteen of those fatalities were live fire deaths.

Commanders say the need to make training realistic and challenging means it is impossible to remove all risk.

Training for war is as deadly as war.

Category: Who knows

Comments (38)

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  1. 2banana says:

    Just how hard is it to keep rounds going down range? And to keep the lunch area behind the firing line?

    And you can have pretty realistic live fire training with just those two rules.

  2. Atkron says:

    Basic firearm safety would have kept this man alive.

    ‘Know your target, and what lays behind it’.

    What a hard way to learn a lesson.

  3. Graybeard says:

    There was a death in Harris County just yesterday (Tuesday) where an employee cleaning a rifle at a shooting range had a ND which went through a wall, through a window, and killed a customer in the parking lot who had just arrived at the range.

    Someone forgot a safety rule, and an innocent man died.

    We need to drill ourselves and all our shooting buddies on the safety rules repeatedly.

    • Old Trooper says:

      How is it even possible to have a ND while cleaning a weapon???? Kinda hard to send the bore brush down the barrel if it’s loaded; eh?

      • OldSoldier54 says:

        Yeah … was wondering about that, too.

      • Graybeard says:

        The investigation is on-going, but the early reports are that the employee is early 20s.

        Possibly someone with just enough experience to be cocky?

        But he obviously failed to clear the weapon first thing.
        He failed to treat the firearm as loaded.
        He failed every safety precaution we preach.

        Just like failing to follow the rules for the safe operation of machinery, a motor vehicle, or a screwdriver, failure to follow the rules of safe operation of a firearm can get someone hurt or killed.

        Reportedly this is the first safety failure in 44 years at this range:

        “Hot Wells Shooting Range issued the following statement on its Facebook page:

        “We apologize in advance for the brevity of this response. We simply do not have the words to express the sorrow in our hearts. For 44 years we have operated this facility accident free, yet today we are shaken by tragedy.

        “There is an ongoing investigation into the circumstances that surround this accident, and until that investigation is complete we will have no comment on the accident details.

        “We understand that this accident has, and will continue to affect the lives of many. We ask that our community joins us in prayer for the healing of all parties involved.”

        • The Other Whitey says:

          Interesting. I don’t pick up a weapon without checking it, even if it’s exactly where I left it. Ever. I’ve never had an ND. Maybe because I know that I very easily could have an ND if I ever start to think that I’m cool enough not to follow basic safety rules, and I would really hate to break my perfect streak, especially when my wife and kids might be in the vicinity of that ND’ed round.

          • Graybeard says:

            I wish I could say I never had a ND.

            I’ve had one – when attempting to lower the hammer on a 1960s Winchester lever-action 30-30 after levering a round into the chamber before still-hunting.

            I did not control the hammer and had the thing go off. Into the ground directly in front of me (at a 45-degree angle from me) while there was no one else around.

            Put a damper on my still-hunting. I may need to sell that old thing.

            • David says:

              I’d be interested… an I’m local. Got the perfect cast bullet for it, too.

              • Graybeard says:

                It’s from the era when Winchester’s quality wasn’t the best.
                On the other hand, it is the only deer gun I have at the moment. Plus I have all the reloading dies, and several boxes of ammo I’ve yet to run through it.
                But if I get serious about selling it, I will let you know David.

                • 11B-Mailclerk says:

                  Lay the rifle over a leg, muzzle pointed at designated boomcatcher. Put your support hand thumb over the firing pin. Cycle and control/lower hammer. If you slip it will hurt, but not go boom.

                  Sounds like you had the boomcatcher part correct. There are folks who have had a negligent discharge, and those who will have one. The designated boomcatcher prevents tragedy.

          • Atkron says:

            Reminds me of the Hunter’s Ed class I took my boys to.

            Anytime an instructor picked up (an orange training) weapon all students were to ask ‘Is it Loaded?’

            They picked up a lot of weapons over that weekend, that is permanently ingrained in all their heads now.

    • DOUGout says:

      Over Thanksgiving a relative who is old enough and well trained enough to have not allowed this to happen passed his .22LR rifle to me as I sat in the back seat of his crewcab p/u. My annoying habit of compulsively checking every chamber of every weapon that comes into my control every time was reinforced when a live round was ejected. I couldn’t have been more surprised if it had been my own negligence. Chagrin and apologies beat an AD every time. DOUG out.

  4. Ex-PH2 says:

    I know that training accidents occur, but a distance of 1,000 yards is quite a margin for a fatal accident like that.

    On the other hand, all guns are dangerous and should be handled carefully, period, as if they’re are loaded, whether they are or not.

    • Hondo says:

      Nowhere near enough margin for some rounds, Ex-PH2.

      If I recall correctly, 1100m was the maximum effective range of the M60. It used the NATO 7.62 x 51mm round.

      • SSG E says:

        US Army regs consider the danger zone to be WAY past 1000 yards, even for the lowest power direct fire weapons:

        .22 = 1400m
        9mm = 1800m
        .38 = 1806m
        .45 = 1690m
        5.56 = 3100m – 3437m, depending on the type
        7.62 = 4100m – 5288m, depending on the type
        .50 = 6100m – 6500m, depending on the type


        • Graybeard says:

          I’ve not double-checked lately, but as I recall the boxes of .22LR would all be marked with a warning that the round could travel a mile (1,609.344 meters per the interwebz conversion tool).

          A good backdrop is essential. It’s hard to know what is going on 1 mile away.

          • The Other Whitey says:

            I was always taught that bullets are stopped by mountains and not much else. Granted, finding a mountain to shoot into is a lot easier in some states than others, but the point is valid. If you’re relying on distance, as opposed to something large and solid, to prevent accidents, you’re doing it wrong.

            • Graybeard says:

              True, TOW.
              We are fortunate enough to have a gully on our land long enough to make a decent pistol range or .22 range out of, so the grandkids can learn safe handling & marksmanship.

              When Dad was teaching us in the rice fields around Houston we had to go down in a bayou to have a safe area. That black gumbo would stop anything.

            • Ranger bryan says:

              The switch fire target was put in top of a 50 ft mound….instead of at the bottom or halfway up where the back of the mound would stop the round
              Then people were not aware that over that mound in a perfect line was more troops.
              Series of events lead to fatal consequences

        • PLASTIC DUCK says:

          The danger area is 3 nautical miles out to sea down there and in theory all firing is done seawards.Google maps shows the coastal path well-section 13 for example and you can see tank tracks. The 500m range is at Penally but as those are fixed targets it seems unlikely. It’s all ranges down there. Hard to see how this happened.

        • Hondo says:

          SSG E: most certainly. As I recall, the max effective range is the maximum distance at which the weapon can be fired accurately (more-or-less, anyway) by a trained individual. However, the round remains dangerous to life/health as an un-aimed “to whom it may concern” threat for a substantially longer distance than that. The DA Pam safe distances specify the necessary buffer against that latter threat.

          • SSG E says:

            You’re exactly right. Normally you’ll see maximum effective ranges expressed in terms of point targets (hit a bad guy) and area targets (keep his head down while your buddies maneuver). For your typical M16/M4, it’s about 500m for a point target and 600m for an area target.

            Of course, for crusty old SSGs with bad eyes, the maximum effective range for a point target is more like 200 – 250m…

  5. OldSoldier54 says:

    From the Telegraph:

    “The inquest heard evidence that the placing of a target meant a machine gunner had fired over land, rather than out to sea, at the 5,900 acre training area.”

    Leadership failure resulting in death. Hang ’em.

    • Graybeard says:

      I’m not sure that is warranted – but that is up to the board of inquiry.

      While acknowledging that the highest-ranking officer over an operation is responsible for anything that occurs under him – nonetheless it is usually considered a mark of a good leader that he empowers his subordinates to make decisions without him having to approve every detail.

      Again – I know nothing about these particular circumstances, but if a trusted and trained subordinate did not follow procedures and he was not aware of it, ought he be held accountable?

      And this being the British army, I’m not sure the manslaughter charges are up to the standards we would anticipate in the US.

      I’m going to hold off on judgment until I know more of the particulars.

      • OldSoldier54 says:

        To be clear, I did not mean literally to be hung, just serious consequences.

      • Yef says:

        Graybeard, I disagree.

        You as a Commanding Officer delegate authority to your subordinate leaders, but you cannot delegate responsibility. The CO is always responsible, and one of his duties is to train his subordinate leaders to make sure they understand the doctrine, the limits of the doctrinal flexibility, and the Commander’s intent on how to accomplish the mission.

        Every time an accident happens the Command team has some degree of responsibility and I am sure the investigation will find out how much.

        • Graybeard says:

          One can train a subordinate know all the safety rules in the world, but I have yet to find a way to ensure that any creature possessing self-will will abide by the safety rules at all times.

          I’ve not been able to do that with either my kids, or those I’ve trained to provide first aid, or my employees, or my Scouts.

          If the superior provided the proper guidance and, without his knowledge, that guidance was not followed then that fact ought to mitigate his responsibility.

  6. GDContractor says:

    This surprises me. I thought the Brits were the kind that would bring the rifle up on charges, not the person.

    And yeah, I’m a dick for saying that.
    RIP Ranger Maquire

  7. kaf says:

    Man, I thought our justice system was slow–this event took place five and a half years ago.

  8. Vexatious Defendant says:

    British officer accussed of actions and resulting in the killing of a man from Cork … not the first time.

    Google it!

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