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Soldier plunges to death in prank tragedy

Staffordshire | News | Published:

An 'inspirational' young soldier was tragically killed at a Staffordshire army base when a practical joke went terribly wrong and he fell through the roof, an inquest heard.

Lance Bombardier Dean Rathbone, aged 24, plunged to his death at MOD Stafford in March, 2012, after scaling scaffolding to retrieve his beret from the roof of a building.

LBdr Rathbone had been working for the Army's recruitment team during the week-long exercise in the days leading up to his death.

Following the exercise LBdr Rathbone and his colleagues were in 'high spirits', the coroner's court sitting at Staffordshire County Council's Martin Street buildings heard yesterday. Lance Corporal Anthony Jenkins told the inquest: "Everything was coming to a close for the day and there was a bit of horseplay going on. One of the soldiers took Dean's beret from his head.

"The beret got passed to me and Dean was chasing me around. I saw scaffolding in front of me, so ran up it and dropped the beret on to the lip of the roof.

"Dean came back and asked me where it was. He then walked over to the scaffolding and carried on to the top, stepping on to the ledge. He stepped on to the roof and started taking some steps. Dean then went out of sight and we heard a cracking noise and a thud the other side where he'd obviously hit the floor."

The soldiers carried out first aid before the barrack's medic arrived. Paramedics then took LBdr Rathbone, who was from Edgbaston, to University Hospital of North Staffordshire, where he died six days later on March 15, 2012.

South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh returned a verdict of accidental death.

LBdr Rathbone's mother, Jemma Rathbone, of Kingstanding, said following the hearing: "Dean was a true inspiration to all who knew him.

"He was a lad who loved life and lived it to the full. I'll never get over the shock of Dean's death. I just miss him so very much."

Please leave your tributes to Lance Bombardier Dean Rathbone below. Comments on the incident will not be published.

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