Day one of the inquest into the deaths of ten servicemen killed when their RAF Hercules aircraft crashed in Iraq three years ago has come to a close.

During the five hour long hearing Wiltshire coroner David Masters decided to hear the entire case without a jury after he ruled that the Ministry of Defence had provided enough evidence to show that they had taken sufficient action to minimise the risk of this sort of incident happening again.

There was standing room only in the coroner's court in Trowbridge, as 26 family members of the dead servicemen, lawyers and national and local journalists crammed in to witness the first day of the hearing, which is expected to last for three weeks.

The court itself was adorned with two replica models of a Hercules aircraft.

Sarah Chapman, sister of Sgt Bob O'Connor killed in the crash, pleaded with Mr Masters to acknowledge her as an interested party in the case, which would allow her access to private material and closed hearings, after she stated her parents simply could not cope.

She said: "We only have one shot at this and we have waited a long, long time for it to come this far.

"My mother is too emotional to deal with all of this and desperately needs closure.

"Although our lawyer takes on board everything she says, she is not in the right frame of mind to take or give orders.

"At the time of my brothers death, my father was recovered from cancer surgery and so he too has found this all of a struggle.

"They are emotionally distressed and their health is suffering - they are in turmoil."

Before ending the court, Mrs Chapman had said: "We have waited three years to get to this point and there is only one inquest and it is of paramount importance that it is done correctly, and for truth and transparency to be upheld."

Mr Masters later said that he was not willing to allow Mrs Chapman to become an interested party after already refusing similar requests by a number of family members of the other dead servicemen, but would keep it under review.

Of the 26 family members present, only two elected to have an inquest by jury, whereas many of the others felt this would impede proceedings further.

Kellie Merritt, whose partner Paul Pardoel died in the crash, had travelled all the way from her home in Australia and said that she would be unable to stay for the full inquest if it had to be stopped and started again.

Mr Masters said that the crux of the inquest will look into the effect of Explosive Suppressant Foam (ESF) which was not used to protect the engine of the Hercules, the low level flying of the plane during day light hours and whether the necessary intelligence was received before the fatal flight on January 30 2005.

Since December last year all Hercules aircrafts routinely deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are equipped with ESF.

The victims of the Hercules crash based at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire were: RAF 47 Squadron's Flt Lt David Stead, the pilot, 35; Flt Lt Andrew Smith, 25, the co-pilot; Master Engineer Gary Nicholson, 42; Flt Sgt Mark Gibson, 34, Australian airman Flt Lt Paul Pardoel, 35 a navigator; and from Lyneham's Engineering Wing, Chief Technician Richard Brown, 40, an avionics specialist; Corporal David Williams, 37, a survival equipment fitter; and Sergeant Robert O'Connor, 38, an engineering technician.

Also on board was Sqn Ldr Patrick Marshall, 39, from Strike Command Headquarters, RAF High Wycombe and Acting L/Cpl Steven Jones, 25, of Fareham, Hampshire.

Families, apart from that of Flt Lt Pardoel, were refused legal aid until two weeks ago.

At the time of the crash it was the biggest single loss of life among British forces in the Iraq campaign.

Lawyer John Cooper, representing the families of Mr O'Connor and Mr Williams, called for a 'full, fair and fearless investigation'.

Mr Cooper later retracted his earlier call for Mr Masters to declare that Article 2 of the Human Rights Act should be engaged in the case, which states that the Government and public authorities must protect an individuals right to life, protecting the lives of those under immediate threat.

Speaking after the first day of proceedings, Grahame Kyte, who was friends with a number of the dead servicemen based at RAF Lyneham, said he felt the case had dragged on far too long.

He said: "All of these families have been through hell and back and there is always something that gets in the way of them receiving any kind of answer.

"The have been in a grieving state of limbo for years now and someone needs to take charge and put an end to it all.

"At the time of the crash there was an eerie silence over all of RAF Lyneham and to this day no-one has really gotten over the terrible loss.

"I hope all of the loose ends get tied up and these families are given the answers they deserve."

Mr Masters will give his opening speech tomorrow morning as the hearing proceedings continue.