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Friends battle to save soldier killed on route back to Bovington camp
FRIENDS of a tragic soldier, killed as he made his way back to base following a night-out, battled to save him without realising his identity.
A Bournemouth inquest heard yesterday how Royal Engineer Sapper Matthew Cottrell, 24, had been unrecognisable after suffering “appalling” injuries in a collision with a coach on the A35, between Poole and Bere Regis, on June 23 last year.
In a statement, Sapper Kristopher Knight, who was also on a training course at Bovington, recalled how he and two friends, who had become separated from Sapper Cottrell, had been the first to come across the fatal accident.
While travelling back to base in a taxi their driver was flagged down by the distraught coach driver.
He said: “I could see a body near the verge. We went to assist. I didn’t realise it was Matt. He was covered in blood and I checked for a pulse.”
Sapper Knight said the soldiers had tried to resuscitate Sapper Cottrell and given first aid until paramedics arrived.
Sapper Cottrell’s identity was confirmed by documentation he was carrying. A post mortem showed he had been more than three times over the legal drink-drive limit.
In a statement Sapper Connor Wastell said Sapper Cottrell had been “heavily intoxicated” and sent back to camp after trying to start a fight.
Taxi driver Jovan Josic told the inquest how he had been asked to take Sapper Cottrell out of Poole by the police and dropped him off when his money had run out, adding: “He muttered something like ‘We defend the country, no-one cares about us.’”
Mr Josic said he wasn’t aware of any arrangement, whereby he would receive the full fare, if he had taken Sapper Cottrell back to Bovington. Recalling the accident, coach driver Kenneth Baker said: “I could see a lorry coming towards me. I moved slightly to avoid a collision. As I looked ahead I could see an arm; then there was a bang on my windscreen.”
Recording an accidental death verdict, Coroner Sheriff Payne said: “It would be dangerous to attempt to walk along there even in daylight; I cannot fault Mr Baker.”
Speaking after the hearing, Sapper Cottrell’s fiancée Debbie Smith, who was on her hen party in Prague when she heard of his death, expressed disappointment that he had been dropped off “on such an unsafe road”.