A GRIEVING widow claims the deaths of three airmen and their colleagues in a tragic spy plane crash in Afghanistan could have been avoided.
Adele Squires, who was married to Flight Lieutenant Allan Squires, joined opposition MPs in blasting the Ministry of Defence after a board of inquiry report into the tragedy was read out in Parliament.
Defence Secretary Des Browne admitted the MOD’s own “failings” were partly to blame for last year’s RAF Nimrod crash, which killed its 14-strong crew.
Among those who died were father- of-two Flt Lt Squires, 39, of Clatterbridge but who was raised in Ellesmere Port, Flt Lt Steven Swarbrick, 28, of Formby, and RAF Sergeant John Langton, 29, of Grassendale.
Last week a report on the tragedy, the biggest loss of military life in a single incident for 25 years, found ageing aircraft components and a lack of modern fire suppressants were among the causes.
It was a blaze, probably caused by a fuel leak following air-to-air refuelling, which caused the catastrophic mid-air explosion that brought down Nimrod XV230 12 miles west of Kandahar on September 2.
Speaking afterwards, Flt Lt Squires’ widow Adele slammed the MoD for her husband’s death and said: “He believed in trying his best at everything.
“I do blame the MoD, but where is that going to get me? It angers me to know the pain we are all going through could so easily have been avoided.
“There is no point being angry with them. It is not going to bring them back. We just want some justice and the MoD to sit up and take notice. What they have done could have been avoided.”
In the Commons, the Defence Secretary apologised to bereaved families and announced an independent review into the “airworthiness” of the ageing Nimrod aircraft.
Mr Browne said: “It is clear that some of the findings of the board of inquiry identify failings for which the MoD must take responsibility.”
He told MPs that many of the 33 recommendations made had already been implemented, insisting: “We are learning lessons from the accident”.
But shadow defence secretary Gerald Howarth accused the MoD of ignoring 40 previous fire-related incidents and 52 fuel leaks in Nimrods.
He said: “Both the RAF and the manufacturer were acutely aware of the potential hazards arising from the Nimrod’s ageing systems.
“The MoD has received repeated warnings about problems with fuel leaks in the Nimrod, but failed to tackle the problem.”
A senior QC will now head a inquiry into the crash, and will have the power to recommend a full public inquiry if considered necessary.
Welcoming the Government’s statement that all those in a position to help the QC will be interviewed, borough MP Andrew Miller asked Mr Browne if this would include all present and former service personnel who had flown Nimrods in similar circumstances in the past.
Mr Browne replied he was “absolutely certain” the QC would want to speak to them.