A HIGH-flying Royal Marines officer, who had been decorated for his service with British Special Forces in Iraq, died after experiencing problems with his air supply during a training exercise, an inquest heard.

Lieutenant Colonel Richard van der Horst, 38, the commanding officer of the Poole-based Special Boat Service, was at a training facility in northern Norway when the incident took place.

Coroner's officer Alan Young told the hearing that Lt Col van der Horst was brought to the surface. Lifesaving procedures were carried out and he was taken to a local hospital, the North Norway University Hospital, where he died on Monday, March 14.

A post-mortem examination was carried out by pathologist Dr Ian Calder, a Cambridge-based specialist in diving accidents, who gave the cause of death as pulmonary oedema, an accumulation of fluid in the lungs, caused by oedema in the brain.

District coroner Sheriff Payne adjourned the inquest to a date to be fixed to allow further inquiries to be carried out. A Royal Naval Board of Inquiry is investigating the tragedy.

According to reports, Lt Col van der Horst was exiting a swimmer delivery vehicle - a mini-submarine allowing commandos to infiltrate enemy territory without being detected - during amphibious NATO exercises off Narvik when he got into difficulties. His wife is understood to have been at his bedside when he died.

Exeter-born Lt Col van der Horst, who lived near Wareham, had been awarded the Order of British Empire for his part in the coalition invasion of Iraq in spring 2003.

He had been promoted to Lt Col at the age of only 35 and was following in the distinguished footsteps of his father Rupert, who completed 33 years commissioned service in the Royal Marines.

First published: March 22