The father of a fit young soldier who collapsed and died during an Army exercise has paid an emotional tribute to his son at an inquest, saying “his love lives on”.
On the opening day of a hearing into the death of 26-year-old Corporal Joshua Hoole, of 1 Rifles, Phillip Hoole said his son “touched everyone with his zest for life”.
“He was a young man that was going places, with a great future ahead of him,” added the 57-year-old former soldier.
His son had been carrying 25kg (55lb) of equipment when he collapsed on a hot day, 400m from the end of the eight-mile (13km) annual fitness test (AFT) course in Brecon, Wales, on July 19 2016.
In total, 18 out of a total of 41 soldiers dropped out, collapsed or were withdrawn by the course directing staff on the day, including Cpl Hoole.
The inquest also heard there was an allegation an officer, Captain Colin Newfer, may have invited another solider, Lance Corporal George Knight – who collapsed on the march before the fatal incident – to change his and other soldiers’ statements about how he came to be withdrawn.
Senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull Louise Hunt heard on Tuesday an investigation into that matter was still ongoing.
Cpl Hoole, of Ecclefechan, Dumfries and Galloway, died three years after three Army reservists suffered fatal heat illness during an SAS selection march in the Brecon Beacons.
A 2017 defence service inquiry report concluded that Cpl Hoole, a “fit, capable and determined” soldier, died as a result of an undiagnosed underlying medical condition, “within the definition of Sudden Arrhythmogenic Death Syndrome”.
Report author Col Jim Taylor had said “he (Cpl Hoole) did not die as a direct result of doing the annual fitness test, despite July 19 being a hot day and two other members of the cadre requiring medical treatment for heat illness”.
But that conclusion was rejected by Cpl Hoole’s father who successfully applied for an inquest to be resumed into the death.
Cpl Hoole’s father – who has another son currently serving in the Army – fought back the emotion as he said: “He shone his light on all of us.
“Had his life not been extinguished, I am sure that he would have achieved much more.”
He added: “As a son, grandson, brother, friend, peer, leader and mentor or just an acquaintance, he had the ability to make you feel better about your own life.
“His life might have been extinguished but his love lives on, in all of us.
“Always swift and bold – and never forgotten.”
Mr Hoole told how his son “was always fit” and, as a youngster, he had taken him “hill-walking or teaching him how to do orienteering, how to use a map and compass- we were always out and about”.
He followed in his father’s footsteps, joining the Army in April 2008 and was deployed on operations including to Afghanistan.
The inquest heard how the 2016 march was in preparation for an infantry leaders’ battle course running until July 30, and operated by the Rifles regimental training team.
Described by commanders as an “outstanding” leader and an “exemplary” soldier, Mr Hoole, from Carlisle, told how his son also “felt he really had to come first (on the march) to get a slot on the course.
“That was the perception Josh had.”
At the start of the inquest, Ms Hunt said: “The march was originally due to start at 11am but did in fact start at 7am due to weather forecast conditions – and we’ll hear more about that.
“We know that during the annual fitness test a lot of soldiers dropped out.”
At the time the test group arrived at Dering Lines at 6.26am that morning, the temperature recorded in the cab of the group’s safety vehicle, which supported the march group, was 17C (62F).
By the stage the troops were half-way round, 10 had already withdrawn, with one complaining of having a “pulsating head – feeling too hot”, and another having “difficulty breathing due to the heat”.
About an hour into the march, L/Cpl Knight was withdrawn, and later described “blanking out and collapsing into a hedge”.
Another soldier also withdrew after feeling “dizziness and confusion” before Cpl Hoole’s collapse.
A forensic pathologist told the coroner: “If it is found that heat exertion played a significant role in the death, I would say this was a sudden death associated with heat and exertion.”
Staff Sergeant Richard Jones, a Royal Military Police senior investigator, presented evidence to the inquest about how the march had unfolded, including a map of the route, and where soldiers dropped out.
He described how Cpl Hoole collapsed at 8.52am, and despite the efforts of base medics, paramedics, and an air ambulance doctor, was pronounced dead at 9.39am.
He also told the coroner how Capt Newfer had been “interviewed under caution” about an allegation that he had invited L/Cpl Knight and other soldiers to change statements about the incident in which L/Cpl Knight himself came to be withdrawn.
The inquest continues.