Beach ‘may have been hit by Army gunfire’

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A tourist beach may have been sprayed with machine gun fire during training in which an Army ranger was shot dead.

Machine gun fire was directed towards Freshwater West Beach, near Tenby, West Wales, in a mistake which could have proved lethal.

The beach is one and a half miles (2.4km) from Castlemartin Ranges where the Army trains recruits.

Civilians ran the risk of being shot and killed themselves on the day one soldier died.

Soldiers at the shooting ranges are put through highly realistic exercises designed to be as close to battle conditions as possible, involving live ammunition fire.

But in May last year Michael Maguire, 21, was hit in the temple by a single machine gun bullet probably fired from 0.6 miles (1km) away.

Ranger Maguire, originally from County Cork, Ireland, was a member of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment.

He was standing in a designated safe haven beyond where live fire training was taking place.

An inquest in Cardiff heard that soldiers shoot out to sea and within co-ordinates which restrict firing to a narrow channel.

Evidence suggests a fellow soldier firing a machine gun at a designated target placed on the range hit ranger Maguire.

The jury heard evidence suggesting that civilians who may have been relaxing at a nearby pleasure beach could also have been hit.

Captain Gary Palmer, an Army weapons expert, investigated the tragedy in parallel with the police to ensure later recruits trained safely.

He highlighted that soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Jonathan Price had shot outside the safe areas specified.

In particular they shot outside a designated area designed to ensure their bullets were no danger to other soldiers on shooting exercises themselves.

Steps taken to guard against this are called “deconfliction” and appear to have gone seriously wrong during the day.

It meant a machine gunner attacking a static target placed at the range for the exercise shot over land.

The inquest continues.