Inquest: SBS Commando died in hang-gliding accident
One of Britain's most celebrated soldiers died in a hang gliding accident trying to perform a manoeuvre he had not been properly trained for, an inquest has heard.
By Nick Britten
Last Updated: 10:05PM GMT 16 Dec 2008
Sgt Paul McGough, 41, of the Special Boat Service, was a key figure in a unit which won the three-day siege of Afghanistan's Qala-i-Jangi jail, one of the bloodiest and highly-decorated missions in the service's history.
He died when, at the end of a four day course in paramotoring - flying using an attached motor - in June 2006 he attempted a complex 360 degree turn at 1,200ft. The engine cut out and he plummeted to earth, dying on impact.
A coroner said that his death was "a loss to his family and to this country".
Sgt McGough, known as Scruff, had finished the course run by Sky School Flight Centre Ltd, and was due to fly to Dubai, but agreed to do one last flight.
After successfully completing two 360 degree turns at the field in Pissouri in Cyprus he indicated to his instructor, the school's owner Alex Ledger, he wanted to repeat the manoeuvre a third and final time.
But the third turn was tighter than expected and despite calls from Mr Ledger to put his hands up to recover the shape of the wing, he began to spiral down.
Mr Ledger, who has taught 40 people to fly paramotors, told his inquest, in Taunton, Somerset: "He entered into a tight turn, much tighter than anything he had done before. He applied the power which is an advanced manoeuvre - nothing we had discussed.
"I remember asking him to put his hands up and decelerate the power immediately. The wing would have moved but it wouldn't have deflated."
He said there was no response to the radio instructions and Sgt McGough went into a 100ft-per-second spiral dive.
Mr Ledger said there would have been a lot of wind-noise during such a spin, affecting his ability to hear.
The West Somerset coroner Michael Rose recorded a narrative verdict and paid tribute to Sgt McGough's "distinguished career" saying: "His death is a loss to you (the family) and to this country."
He added: "In all probability the deceased would not have died if the risk of such turns had been more fully understood at the time and appropriate training given."
Ten days ago, The British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association published new guidelines on spiral dives, the coroner heard.
Sgt McGough was a veteran of many battles and one of the most respected members of the Royal Navy's SBS, the sister unit of the Army's SAS.
In November 2001 Sgt McGough, a married father-of-four, led a team of seven SBS commandos into battle at the Qala-i-Jangi, in Mazar-i-Sharif, after 600 al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners, armed with AK47s and rocket-propelled grenades, had run riot.
He risked his life to rescue CIA agent Dave Dawson, who had been questioning prisoners before being cornered by them, before helping hold back the marauding prisoners for two days before the Americans began air strikes.