Soldier killed in accidental shooting

A West Cork community is mourning after a soldier who fought in Afghanistan was accidentally killed by a stray bullet during a training exercise in Wales.

Michael Maguire, 21, from Coomhola, Bantry, who stood 6ft 7ins tall, died when he was shot on a Castlemartin military range in Pembrokeshire.

A former U14 Cork county football championship medal winner, Michael had joined the 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment, in May 2010 and was sent to Afghani-stan four months later.

His death, during a live firing exercise on Wednesday, although being treated as an accident, is under investigation by Dyfed Powys Police with the assistance of the Health and Safety Executive.

The chairman of Coomhola Community Council and the local St Colum’s GAA club, Neilie O’Leary, said the community was “numbed and extremely saddened” by news of Michael’s death.

“I trained him when St Colum’s won the county U14 football championship in 2004 and he was even then a very tall young fella,” Mr O’Leary said.

He said Michael was a close friend of his family and “one of the nicest young men who was ever inside my door”.

“It is very ironic that he went to Afghanistan and came back unscathed, only to get shot in a training accident,” he said.

“He was a very witty young man and a pure gentleman. He will be sorely missed and all our thoughts are with his family.”

Michael was the youngest child of Michael Snr and Maureen Maguire, and is also survived by two brothers and a sister.

It will be a number of days before the British authorities release his body for burial.

Michael’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Colin Weir, said his entire battalion was deeply shocked by the tragic accident.

“All our thoughts and prayers are with Ranger Maguire’s family at this difficult time. He was a deeply professional and likeable young man and will be sorely missed.”

Major Richard Bell, Michael’s company commander, said he was one of his best soldiers.

“His loss has devastated everyone who knew him. Michael was always going to stand out from the crowd, not only because he stood a towering 6ft 7ins tall, but because of his vastly cheerful outlook on life, natural charisma, and irrepressible good humour.

“All of this ensured that he was extremely popular throughout the company and his loss is keenly felt,” Major Bell said.

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