The death of a soldier during a training exercise was an "accident waiting to happen" after questions were raised over safety procedures, an inquest has heard. 

Staff Sergeant John McKelvie, 51, was involved in an accident at Gandale Camp in Catterick Garrison on January 29, 2019 which saw a Jackal, an open-top military vehicle, overturn.

Sgt McKelvie, who was driving at the time, was airlifted to James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough where he died on February 4, 2019; six days after the vehicle overturned at the army base.

Sgt John McKelvieSgt John McKelvie (Image: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE)

At the time, Sgt McKelvie was undertaking an off-road training course on the vehicle, led by Sgt Craig Dunleavy, who was also in the vehicle and injured during the incident.

This week, an inquest into the 51-year-old's death held at Thirsk Racecourse has heard witnesses including military personnel, medical professionals, and engineers who created the Jackal vehicle give evidence.

On Tuesday (June 18), the inquest heard from Martin Robson, the training safety marshal at Catterick Garrison, who ensures training is carried out safely for soldiers at the army base. 

During his evidence, Mr Robson, whose job it is to patrol training areas, went through the process soldiers would have to take to book a training area. 

According to Mr Robson, safety checks weren't carried out just before the fatal incident - which would normally include a recce of the site by instructors - or correct procedure with instructors failing to check in with range control, who oversee training drills at Catterick Garrison. 

Catterick GarrisonCatterick Garrison (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

The training safety marshal also highlighted that the Jackal shouldn't have been in a light vehicle training area, where the incident occurred, and should have been in a heavy vehicle training area instead - calling the Jackal "unsuitable for the area".

Mr Robson, who wasn't on site when the fatal incident happened in 2019, said: "The Jackal shouldn't have been there - it's too heavy for the surroundings and could end up ripping holes in the ground. 

"It's also dangerous for other vehicles - if a motorbike or quadbike is in the light vehicle area - the Jackal driver could easily miss them.

"If I were on site that day - I would have stopped the training exercise because the Jackal is unsuitable for where it was."

A Jackal vehicleA Jackal vehicle (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

As well as noting the safety issues, Mr Robson also highlighted that soldiers booking or travelling to incorrect training sites was a "common occurrence" and that the fatal incident that claimed Sgt McKelvie's life was an "accident waiting to happen".

The inquest also heard from Professor Steve Austin, engineer director of Supacat Ltd, who designed and developed the Jackal - which was created in the 1990s for military personnel.

Since the fatal incident in the Jackal, Professor Austin noted that Supacat had worked with the Ministry of Defence to enhance the vehicles' anti-roll technology. 

However, questions about the safety of the vehicles were raised by the legal team of the McKelvie family, who asked Professor Austin whether fatal incidents linked to Jackals had been reported before. 

Responding to the concerns, Professor Austin said that, since 2009, there had been 40 incidents of a Jackal rolling, with only three of these having multiple rolls involved - none of which involved fatalities. 

Questioned about whether Sgt McKelvie's height of 6ft4in was a factor in the soldier's death, Professor Austin said that the Jackal was geared up towards people measuring six feet and two inches but still protected taller people.

Professor Austin said: "In the aftermath of this tragic incident - we have made several changes to the Jackal - and while risk can't be eliminated completely, it can be reduced. 

"I want to offer my condolences to the family and friends of staff Sergeant McKelvie."