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Police widen soldier deaths probe
Police investigating the deaths of three soldiers who died during an SAS selection programme in the Brecon Beacons say they have not yet interviewed everyone they would like to.
Army reservists Edward John Maher, 31, Craig John Roberts, 24, and 31-year-old James Dunsby died while taking part in a gruelling SAS selection exercise on one of the hottest days of the year. A number of other soldiers also collapsed and needed medical attention.
It is thought the group were carrying out an exercise known as the "Fan Dance", which involves marching up 886-metre high Pen Y Fan mountain and down the other side carrying a weighted pack and rifle, then doing the route in reverse, in a set time.
In the aftermath of the tragedies, Dyfed Powys Police launched an investigation - with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Civil Police Force also on standby. A separate fact-finding mission by a coroner is under way as well.
Detective Inspector Iwan Jones told a pre-inquest review hearing in Aberdare Coroner's Court that the scale of investigation had widened.
He said: "Having reviewed some of the evidence we have decided to expand the investigation. We are aiming to have statements from a substantial number of soldiers - between 94 and 96 - emergency service personnel and members of the public. We are still waiting for (all of the) soldiers' accounts from the army at this moment in time ... there have been logistical problems as some of these are now serving abroad."
South Wales mountain range the Brecon Beacons is one of several locations British military use as part of their training. Its rugged and sprawling terrain helps prepare soldiers physically and mentally for warfare as well as put their logistic skills to the test, making it an ideal area for elite forces personnel like the SAS. However the Beacons' jagged topography can prove dangerous even to the most hardened and physically fit.
On July 13, as temperatures hit 29.5C, emergency crews were scrambled to the area amid reports that six soldiers had collapsed suffering heat exhaustion. Witnesses said they had seen soldiers looking exhausted and making a desperate plea for water.
Qualified teacher Lance Corporal Roberts, of Penrhyn Bay, near Llandudno, was pronounced dead on the mountainside, while Lance Corporal Maher and Corporal Dunsby were taken to hospital.
L/Cpl Maher died three hours later in Merthyr Tydfil's Prince Charles Hospital, while Cpl Dunsby, of Bath, Somerset, battled on. The political science graduate was transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, which has the the largest single-floor critical care unit in the world and is home to the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine. Despite the efforts of doctors and the hospital's state-of-the-art facilities, Cpl Dunsby was pronounced dead on July 30.