Soldier, 21, killed during training exercise for Afghanistan

Fusilier Dean Griffiths was preparing for potential deployment when he was shot in the head at MoD ground in Kent

A 21-year-old soldier was shot and killed during a live-fire training exercise as part of his regiment's preparations for potential deployment to Afghanistan, it emerged on Thursday.

Fusilier Dean Griffiths was shot in the head during the "fire and move" drill at a Ministry of Defence training ground in Kent on Wednesday afternoon.

He was airlifted to hospital but died from his wounds. Relatives said he was due to become a father, and his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Webb, described him as "an outstanding soldier" who had great potential.

Fusilier Griffiths, from Market Drayton, Shropshire, was taking part in an exercise at the MoD firing ranges in Lydd when he was shot. All soldiers preparing for deployment go through the same regime, to prepare them for hostile environments.

Kent police said they were called to the training ground at 2.45pm and officers have now launched an inquiry, which they will conduct alongside investigators from the Health and Safety Executive.

Police said nobody had been arrested and that the investigation was still at an early stage, though forensic officers had spent time at the scene.

Tributes to Fusilier Griffiths were paid by his brother as well as those who served with him in 1st Battalion, the Royal Welsh Regiment.

"Dean was fun, loving and caring and was so excited at becoming a father," said Dewi Griffiths. "He touched the lives of so many and we will all miss our Deano. We ask that we are given time to grieve."

In a statement, Webb added: "As a battalion we are hugely saddened by the death of Fusilier Griffiths. Intelligent, fit and skilful, he was an outstanding soldier with the potential for a long and very successful career in The Royal Welsh.

"He was also a thoroughly engaging person. Popular and with a great sense of humour. He will be mourned by his many friends in the battalion and our deepest and most sincere sympathy goes to his girlfriend and his family at this very difficult time."

The army said the death was "subject to a civil police investigation and it would therefore be inappropriate to comment".

The death was not the first at Lydd in recent years. In 2006, a 20-year-old from 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards, was killed by a single gunshot wound while training at the ranges.

The site has been used for military exercises for the past 150 years. Its sandy and hilly terrain is considered ideal for live firing exercises, and the range has a danger area that extends out to sea.

It is in near constant use, with live firing exercises around 300 days a year.

Contributor

Nick Hopkins

The GuardianTramp

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