Michael Maguire, aged 20, from Coomhola, Bantry, Co Cork, died after being shot as he was relaxing in a secure safe haven at an army live-fire shooting range at Castlemartin Ranges, in Pembrokeshire, Wales.
Mr Maguire, who was 6ft 7in and known to friends as “High Tower”, joined the 1st battalion on May 10, 2010, and was sent to Afghanistan four months later. A former U14 Cork county football championship medal winner, Michael was the youngest child of Michael Sr and Maureen Maguire, and is also survived by two brothers and a sister.
The fatal bullet was fired 1km away inland towards another group of recruits on a live fire exercise. All live fire should have been safely aimed out to sea.
Michael’s family were present throughout the inquest.
Mr Maguire Sr listened in silence as the inquest verdict was read out.
Jimmy Maguire, the ranger’s older brother, said the inquest had been an “emotional ordeal” for the family. He said that despite the outcome there were still unanswered questions.
Yesterday’s verdict leaves a question mark over the ability of the officer who planned and oversaw the shooting exercises.
Lt Jonathan Price, the range conducting officer, passed the training course which allowed him to take charge of the exercises on the day.
However, the inquest heard that just nine months before, course tutors recommended that he receive extra supervision due to perceived weaknesses in his understanding of the course.
He went on to make a series of mistakes in the planning and carrying out of the live fire exercises.
Mr Maguire said: “We note the verdict that the jury has reached, which reflects the very serious failings of the range conducting officer in the planning, setting up and conducting of this training exercise.
“The inquest heard that he was a competent person, qualified to conduct this exercise.
“We are surprised and puzzled how somebody could have been considered competent to conduct an exercise of this nature when at the same time he made so many fundamental errors, and how this could not have been picked up through the chain of command and at the range.
“We are left wondering how someone with such limited experience could have been put in charge of the training exercise and the range with no senior officer present and without appropriate supervision.”
Ranger Maguire had already served one tour of duty in Afghanistan and was at the start of a series of low-level training exercises as part of the build-up to a second tour.
He was standing without a protective helmet and armour in a designated safe area when he was hit in the head by a machine gun bullet. He was airlifted to hospital in Cardiff but was pronounced dead within 30 minutes of his arrival.
Ranger Maguire’s tragic death ensured the deadly training exercise was stopped immediately.
Afterwards, Alison Millar, the lawyer from Leigh Day representing the Maguire family, said: “Unlawful killing is the strongest possible verdict available and reflects the seriousness of the failures relating to the planning, set-up and conduct of this training exercise which resulted in Michael losing his life.
“The Maguire family are especially concerned how someone who made such fundamental errors can be regarded by the army as competent and experienced to lead and plan live firing training.
“They query whether the systems in place for the training and supervision of junior army officers are adequate.
“We feel this inquest has also raised issues about the chain of command and the systems in place on army firing ranges.
“We are now considering further legal options with the family.”
Michael Maguire’s family paid tribute to him in a statement read out after the verdict.
“Mike was a dearly loved son and brother, and he is much missed by us, his family, and everyone who knew him.
“We are pleased the inquest heard that Mike was a very well-liked member of his battalion, who served in difficult conditions in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. It makes it all the more ironic that he should lose his life on a training exercise in Wales.”
Michael’s brother Jimmy said: “The inquest has been an emotional ordeal for us, but we thank the coroner and the jury for their thorough investigation in to Mike’s death.
“However, we are disappointed that key personnel involved decided to rely on their right not to answer questions which were potentially self-incriminating rather than gave the inquest a full and true account of what happened.
“That has left us with unanswered questions, in particular about the actions of the people responsible for the planning of and safety on the exercise that caused Mike’s death.”
He said the family hoped other ongoing investigations, including one by the army, would fill in outstanding gaps in the evidence.
Mr Maguire said: “We know that nothing can bring Mike back: Our primary concern throughout this process, therefore, has been that nothing like this ever happens again.”