A SOLDIER died during an army diving lesson near Chepstow after a scheduled stage of his five-week training course had been skipped, an inquest was told yesterday (Monday).

Lance Corporal George Partridge, 27, and 11 other soldiers were four weeks into the course when, on March 26, 2018, he died at the National Diving and Activity Centre - a flooded quarry in Tidenham.

That day, the trainees had been scheduled due to perform Dive 19 in their course, going down to a depth of 21-23metres, the Gloucester inquest was told.

L/Corporal Partridge was based at Wiltshire's 26 Engineer Regiment at the time of his death. 

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Lance Corporal George Partridge. Picture: Ministry of DefenceLance Corporal George Partridge. Picture: Ministry of Defence

But a decision was taken on the day to skip that exercise and go straight on to Dive 20 of the programme instead - descending to a submerged helicopter at a depth of 26-27metres in the man-made lake.

L/Corporal Partridge, who was rated by instructors as the top student in his group, went down at 11am with 'buddy' Stephen Hart but minutes later he got into trouble, and when he was brought to the surface his face mask was hanging off and his two air tanks were found to be empty, the inquest was told.

READ MORE: Tribute to soldier who died in 'tragic diving incident' near Chepstow

The dive supervisor, Staff Sergeant Justin Dolly, was questioned by a lawyer representing L/C Partridge's family, about the reason behind the decision not to go ahead with Dive 19 as planned.

He told the inquest jury it was felt that the dive could be skipped because the previous week the trainees had done two deeper dives, one to 30metres in the Solent, off Southampton.

He agreed with the assistant Gloucestershire coroner Roland Wooderson, who suggested the “reason for the change was to do something more interesting and recce the helicopter".

Sgt Dolly said "We decided to dive to the wreck of the helicopter which was more interesting than what they had seen in the previous four weeks of training."

At the start of the inquest the coroner told the jurors they would have to consider matters including the equipment used by George while diving, the systems in operation at the privately run diving centre on the day in question, and the medical cause of death.

The inquest continues on Tuesday and is expected to end on Thursday.