Coroner pays tribute to brave soldier

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THE family of a teenage soldier killed in Afghanistan last year have paid tribute to a ‘fantastic’ son.

Guardsman Michael Sweeney, 19, from the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, was killed in the Babaji district of central Helmand province in 2010.

An inquest into his death today (Tuesday) heard how Guardsman Sweeney, who was originally from Lindsay Avenue, Blyth, was on foot patrol at the time of the explosion.

On April 1, 2010, he was on patrol to relieve the soldiers manning a check point, when he trod on a hidden bomb which took his life.

Wing Commander Angus Dee told the inquest: “A team of foot soldiers advanced in single file, with Guardsman Sweeney at number 17.

“At the lead the route was being checked with a metal detector.

“They came to a 2m high wall known as the tetris wall. To improve security about 30m of the wall had been demolished.

“The first man reached the gap in the wall and searched across the path, and the soldiers followed in his footsteps.

“As Guardsman Sweeney crossed the gap there was a large explosion.”

The inquest heard how he was then taken by helicopter to a hospital at Camp Bastion, where he later died.

Wing Commander Dee said: “An investigation of the site took place the following day and found the improvised explosive device was probably activated by a pressure plate 1.5m away from the route.

“It contained 15 to 20kg of homemade explosive.”

A post mortem revealed he had died from blast injuries caused by an explosion.

Coroner Eric Armstrong recorded a verdict that Guardsman Sweeney was killed while on active service, and said: “I hope you are all proud of this young man.

“He was serving his country and doing what I am sure he loved.”

After the hearing Michael’s mum Kim said: “I don’t think there will ever be closure on this. When people are grieving, they are always grieving.

“Michael made us all proud, but we would have been proud of him whether he was in the army or not. He was just a fantastic son.”

Michael Sweeney joined the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards after training at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick in 2008.

In June 2008 he paraded on the Queen’s Birthday Parade and was deployed to Kenya in January 2009 for an extended exercise.

He was posted to Helmand Province in December 2009.

Since Michael’s death his family have held several fundraising events to raise money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, which aids soldiers who return injured.