'Ministry of Defence may have failed to protect life of engineer'

Red Arrows tragedy ‘may be human rights breach’: Ministry of Defence might have failed to protect life of engineer who was killed in training exercise, inquest hears

  • Corporal Jonathan Bayliss, 41, died when a Hawk T1 erupted into a ‘ball of flames’
  • Pilot Flight Lieutenant David Stark ejected from plane ‘half a second’ before it hit the runway in March 2018
  • Mr Bayliss’s family claim there was a ‘systemic failure’ by the MoD to protect life

The Ministry of Defence may have breached the Human Rights Act by failing to protect the life of a Red Arrows engineer killed in a training exercise, an inquest heard yesterday. 

Corporal Jonathan Bayliss, 41, died instantly when a Hawk T1 erupted into a ‘ball of flames’ as it hit the runway at RAF Valley, in Anglesey, north Wales. 

The RAF engineer’s family claim there was a ‘systemic failure’ by the MoD.

Corporal Jonathan Bayliss, 41, died instantly when a Hawk T1 erupted into a ‘ball of flames’ as it hit the runway at RAF Valley, in Anglesey, north Wales.

And at the opening of an inquest into the death today, a coroner confirmed there had been an ‘arguable breach’ of Article 2 of the Human Rights Act, which covers cases where the state ‘fails to protect the deceased against a human threat or other risk’. 

Pilot Flight Lieutenant David Stark ejected from the plane ‘half a second’ before it hit the runway in March 2018.

But he did not have time to warn Mr Bayliss sitting behind in the rear cockpit who died instantly on impact. 

A Service Inquiry Panel (SIP) investigation subsequently found that Mr Stark, 38, was almost certainly fatigued and distracted during the incident.

This image shows Pilot Flight Lieutenant David Stark (circled) ejected from the plane just moments after the tragedy occured in March 2018

Katie Sutherland, acting senior coroner for north-west Wales, said she would decide at the end of the four-day hearing whether she needed to send a notice to the MoD urging them to take action to prevent similar deaths in the future. 

The court heard that the jet had taken off from RAF Valley with the intention of simulating an engine failure as part of a practice exercise. 

But the SIP inquiry had found that the plane stalled during the manoeuvre and crashed because it was flying too low to recover. 

The report also said Mr Stark’s routine did not include ‘sufficient time for rest’, which was a contributory factor in the crash. 

Yesterday Squadron Leader Steve Morris, who performed with the Red Arrows for seven seasons, told the inquest in Caernarfon that he had been instructing a student on the runway when the crash happened. 

He admitted there was ‘intense’ pressure on pilots, such as Mr Stark, who were in their first year with the display squadron. 

He said: ‘The pressure you feel under, you put yourself under, can be intense, definitely, particularly during the spring months where you are starting to develop formations.’ 

He confirmed he had instructed Mr Stark previously and insisted he had no concerns ‘at all’ about his abilities as a pilot. 

In a statement read to the court, the family said they wanted lessons to be learned from Mr Bayliss’s death and for necessary action to be taken to protect other servicemen and women. 

At a previous hearing, Charlotte Law, representing Mr Stark, said her client hadn’t gone against his training, orders or guidance when conducting the manoeuvre. 

Instead she referred to safety parameters being ‘insufficient’, which amounted to a ‘systems failure’ that posed a risk to the occupants of the aircraft. 

The inquest continues

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