SOLDIERS taking part in a gruelling military exercise in the Brecon Beacons at the weekend in which two men died asked for water from hikers, it emerged last night.
The men lost their lives while taking part in the selection process for the Territorial Army section of the SAS.
Hiker David Capstick told Channel 4 News that they had already been passed by a string of soldiers moving in the opposite direction at five or ten-minute intervals when they came across two soldiers who looked to have abandoned the operation.
“One of the soldiers made a compassionate plea for some drinking water for his colleague,” said Mr Capstick.
The second soldier “did seem to be in distress”, said the hiker. “He was upset. The other soldier was trying to make the best of the situation, and asked if we could spare any water for his colleague, not for himself. It must have taken quite a lot for the soldier to ask some civilian hikers for help.”
Mr Capstick said that the hikers had had only a limited amount of water, and were struggling with the weight of their own packs: “The weight of the army packs was clearly twice the weight of our own packs and it was very hard to see how they did end up in a position where they had run out of water.”
He said the stronger of the pair said that it was OK, as they would get water from a stream further ahead, though the walkers knew this was no more than a “line of arid rocks”.
“I don’t think it occurred to us that fatalities were going to result,” Mr Capstick said. “But it certainly was slightly odd that the two soldiers in particular had bunched together and were clearly in distress. That caused a little bit of alarm among us.”
One of the dead men was named by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) yesterday, as Lance Corporal Craig Roberts, 24, a teacher from Penrhyn Bay, near Llandudno in north Wales. Neither the second victim, or a third man who remains in a serious condition in hospital, has been named.
The men were part of a group training in the Welsh mountains when temperatures soared to 29.5C. It is understood three other members of the group were assisted by rescue teams.
The deaths have prompted questions over the way rigorous SAS training is carried out, amid speculation that the extreme weather conditions played a part in the tragedy. However, the MoD has said there are no plans to change “routine exercises” in light of the incident.
L/Cpl Roberts, who had served with the TA for more than five years, worked as a maths teacher in Lewisham, south London.
In a statement, the MoD said: “It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence can confirm the death of L/Cpl Craig Roberts and another army reserve soldier during a training exercise in the Brecon Beacons.”
Police and the MoD are investigating the deaths.