US soldier who run over British army captain refuses to travel to UK for his inquest

US soldier who ran over and killed a British Army captain, 46, with a forklift truck at Iraqi base fails to show up for inquest hearing after an American general dropped all charges against him

  • Capt. Dean Sprouting was on a training run at a joint Army base in Iraq in 2018 
  • His inquest heard that Captain Sprouting died after being struck by a forklift  
  • The US serviceman driving the truck has refused to show up at today's inquest
  • A British Army major said two US soldiers should be prosecuted over the death


The American driver of a forklift truck which ran over and killed a British Army captain ignored a request from a British coroner to attend an inquest today.

The US National Guardsman had been at the wheel of the vehicle at a joint Army base in Iraq when the tragedy happened as the victim was enjoying an afternoon fitness road run alone.

Today as he presided over the inquest into the death of Captain Dean Sprouting, Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter said he understood 'the issues' about why the truck driver nor his US colleague who was with him, had not turned up for the inquest in Oxford.

Captain Dean Sprouting, pictured, was killed after he was struck by a forklift truck driven by a US soldier at Al Asad Air base in Iraq in January 2018. His inquest heard that the driver of the truck has refused to travel to the UK to attend Cpt Sprouting's inquest

Captain Sprouting, who was with The Black Watch, was returned to RAF Brize Norton on February 8, 2018, suffered serious head injuries which led to his death after being struck by the forklift truck being driven by Sgt Stephen Gray

The non-attendance came on the same day that US President Donald Trump intervened in the case of a US diplomat's wife who flew back to America after driving on the wrong side of a British road killing a teenager, instead of facing a police investigation.

The inquest into the death of Scottish military captain Dean Sprouting who was crushed by the forklift driven by the American soldier in Iraq saw British military staff criticise the actions of the US troops.

The coroner was told that an Army Major believed charges including homicide, gross negligence and manslaughter, should have been lodged against the two US soldiers. However it was revealed that just days ago, an American Brigadier General in the US had ruled that all charges against the two men should be dropped.

Mr Salter was told that Capt.

Sprouting had gone for an afternoon run on January 31 last year at the Al Asad Airbase in Iraq and was just moments away from reaching his accommodation when he was crushed under the wheels of the large forklift truck driven by Sergeant Steven Gray.

Sgt Gray had been tailing Sergeant Joel Miller, who was driving a medium tactical vehicle as an escort because the fork lift had very limited visibility, the inquest heard, particularly as it was transporting a large supply container.

British military personnel argued the two American soldiers, who were part of the National Guard unit, which the inquest heard is 'not full time army'.

Neither of the US troops had attended the inquest, the Oxfordshire Coroner Darren Salter explained, despite being asked to.

Mr Salter said: 'Obviously, they are not here. That is not uncommon with foreign service personnel not attending an inquest and I understand the issues, which are above my area of responsibility. I did make a request and I did not anticipate that they would be forthcoming.'

US soldier who run over British army captain refuses to travel to UK for his inquest

Capt. Sprouting (above, with his wide) was killed by a forklift truck when he was returning from a run at the Iraqi airbase where he was stationed

In a statement, Sgt.

Gray said he had seen a 'blur of blue' as Capt. Sprouting, in a blue running top and shorts, briefly appeared in his line of vision.

Sgt Gray said: 'I saw something blue come under the rear of the con-ex [supply container]. I felt a bump under the wheel of my fork lift.'

The inquest heard how Sgt Gray had leapt from his forklift while gesturing to Sgt Miller and had run behind his vehicle to check on Capt.

Sprouting, who had no pulse.

Sgt Gray was later seen sitting on his knees by the side of the road as two Dutch medics, who were also out jogging, rushed to give Capt. Sprouting first aid, the inquest heard.

In a statement, Sgt. Miller, who is a police officer when not serving in the US army, said: 'When I saw what was going on, I just hammered it, floored it, went to the medivac tent.'

In transcripts of interviews with US Military CID, following the incident and which were read during the inquest, the American troops said they had been travelling with hazard lights on at between 5-8mph along what was known on the base as Tower Road towards a location called Voodoo Ramp.

During his interview, Sgt.

Gray said he was not aware of any unit or battalion standard operating procedure for operating a forklift or an escort vehicle.

US soldier who run over British army captain refuses to travel to UK for his inquest

The married father-of-two was in Iraq to train local soldiers as part of a mission against ISIS

In his statement Sgt. Miller had criticised Capt. Sprouting's decision to run along the road, calling it 'the dumbest thing ever.'

'I can never think why people are out there running, it is the most narrow road on post and the most travelled with the largest equipment.

It is the dumbest thing that people here run along that road. I don't know where he came from. It just doesn't make any sense.'

British Army Major Ian Houston, attending the Oxford inquest, challenged the idea that Capt.

Sprouting should not have been running along the road, saying it was 'a sanctioned route.'

Serving as Capt. Houston in January last year, he had worked alongside Capt. Sprouting - Capt.

Houston working in Logistics and Capt. Sprouting worked in personnel and HR - both serving with Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Major Houston said: 'Dean and I were of a similar age and age takes its toll. He and I were of similar physical ability.

The opportunity on operations to do some phys [physical activity] is a good thing. He was doing the same thing that everybody else did.

'A lot of people run on the road, it was not uncommon. I run on the road the majority of the time.'

Two large vehicles would have had space to pass each other on the stretch of road where Capt.

Sprouting was struck and killed, Major Houston told the coroner, calling them 'big, wide concrete roads.'

Major Houston added: 'There was an escort vehicle because the fields of view on the forklift are not broad, particularly if you have a metal container in the front of it.

'Having heard from the two drivers, there was some distance between the escort vehicle and the forklift. The reason the escort needs to be right in front is it is effectively the eyes and ears. I am just questioning the distance.'

The drivers had said in their statements that at one point another truck had driven between them and at one point the escort vehicle had to turn and come back to the forklift truck.

Linda Sprouting, Capt.

Sprouting's wife, attended the inquest with his mother and step-father. Capt. Sprouting had two sons with Linda, the inquest heard and they lived in Coupers Way, Denny, Stirlingshire, Scotland, before he was deployed to Iraq last January.

He had suffered with an ear infection in Christmas 2017, the inquest heard, and had been taking medication.

Mrs Sprouting told the inquest: 'He enjoyed his job in the Army and was incredibly proud to have been commissioned.

I have no doubt that Dean would have been promoted further in the officer ranks.

'He did not tell anybody about his ear problems. He did not think he would be able to deploy in Iraq. He was really looking forward to the tour and did not want to let anyone down.'

Lieutenant Colonel Banfield, an ear, nose and throat specialist giving expert evidence to the inquest, said: 'A perforated ear drum or resolving infection would be expected to result in diminished hearing and this could lead to safety issues secondary to a diminished auditory input.'

The coroner heard that Capt.

Sprouting's body was transported back from Iraq to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford and Dr Russell Delaney, in a post mortem examination, had concluded he had suffered a 'severe' head injury which would have resulted in him being instantly unconscious and concluded he had died from multiple injuries.

Mr Salter said: 'I want to offer my condolences on the loss of Dean in these tragic circumstances, just at the time when he appears to have been staring a new phase in his long military career.

'There are not coroners in Scotland, so in a decision with the family, it was agreed that I would retain Coronial jurisdiction so that there is the opportunity for there to be this independent process.' 

Following the hearing, the coroner returned a finding of accidental death but said he was a 'hair's breadth' a way from recording unlawful killing. 

He said the law prevented him from the unlawful killing verdict. 

Speaking outside the inquest, Mrs Sprouting said her husband's case had strong similarities to that of the US diplomat's wife who fled the UK after running over a teenager.

She said she empathised with the victim's family. 

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