Army Sergeant shot dead by short-sighted soldier who thought he was wooden target in freak accident
Galvin Hillier died instantly at the firing range after a squaddie who meant to fire at a wooden target, fired the shots while not wearing his lens
Wales, United Kingdom: A decorated army sergeant was shot dead after a short-sighted soldier, who had not put his lenses on shot him thinking he was aiming at a wooden target, a military inquiry has found.
The blunder happened on the night of March 1, 2021, on an Army rifle range in Pembrokeshire, claiming the life of Gavin Hillier, from the Welsh Guards. The father of two died instantly at the firing range after a squaddie who meant to fire at a wooden target, fired the fatal shots while not wearing his lens.
A service inquiry report claimed that the squaddie referred to as Guardsman 1, had such poor eyesight that he initially refused to enter the range and was only allowed to enter being issued with corrective lenses and reassessed. The report stated that because of the rules of medical confidence, Army medics could not inform Guardsman 1's chain of command that he needed to wear glasses.
Sgt Hillier was acting as a safety supervisor and was wearing a high-visibility fluorescent yellow jacket and a red glowstick was strapped to the back of his helmet. For extra safety, he was also wearing full body armor. The inquiry reports cleared that guardsman 1 failed to determine the difference between the Sgt and the wooden target and ended up firing shots at him.
The report adds that the guardsman's uncorrected eyesight "meant that, to see the same level of detail as a normally-sighted person, he would need to be three times closer if using both eyes or six times closer using just their right eye."
"On the night of March 4, 2021, Guardsman 1 was not wearing corrective lenses and so his binocular vision would have seen Sgt Hillier, who was 143m away, in the same level of detail as someone with normal vision would have seen him at 429m," said the report. "With their right eye (the eye used to aim and fire the rifle) this would have increased to 858m."
The report found 14 factors leading to Sgt Hillier’s death and made 20 recommendations.
Sgt Hillier, 35, of 1 Battalion Welsh Guards, was a veteran of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war veteran had also received a long service and good conduct medal from Prince Charles, the Colonel of the Regiment. The family of members of Sgt Hillier said they were “absolutely devastated." Sgt Hillier's widow, Karyn, has seen the Service Inquiry report but said it was too soon to comment on it.
Mourning their father’s death, Sgt Hillier’s sons Declan and Connor said, “We are absolutely heartbroken and can’t express how proud we are of you. Our boys will continue to make you proud and you will forever live on through them. Daddy, we are not ready to say goodbye just yet so until we meet again, we love you always. Love, your heartbroken wife and boys.”
An Army spokesman said, “Our thoughts and sympathies remain with family and friends. We are supporting the investigation being led by Dyfed-Powys Police so it would be inappropriate to comment further.”