Loss of life biggest since RAF air tanker disaster killed 16

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THE fatal explosion near Lashkar Gah is the biggest single loss of British military personnel in the country since the RAF Nimrod crash which killed 14 people in 2006.

The Nimrod explosion, on September 2, 2006, came moments after mid-air refuelling when a fire broke out on the plane.

The aircraft blew apart as the crew tried to make an emergency descent to Kandahar airbase. The crash prompted a scathing review which accused the MoD of sacrificing safety to cut costs.

An inquest in 2008 saw Coroner Andrew Walker conclude that the aircraft was not airworthy but it was almost a year later before the RAF’s fleet of Nimrod surveillance planes were temporarily withdrawn from operations overseas.

The planes were grounded following a concerted campaign by the families of the service personnel who died.

Graham Knight, father of Sgt Ben Knight, accused the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of compromising safety by rejecting Mr Walker’s finding that the fleet should be kept on the ground until a “serious design flaw” had been rectified.

An inquiry found that leaking fuel came into contact with a hot-air pipe after mid-air refuelling, and recommended replacement of fuel seals and engine bay ducts.

In a written statement to MPs, Mr Ainsworth said the modifications had been delayed because of “problems with the provision of replacement fuel seals”. Technical experts had advised the MoD that to keep risk “as low as reasonably practical” no Nimrods should fly unless their hot-air ducts had been replaced.