Family of soldier, 35, ‘heartbroken’ after ‘great leader’ dies in live firing exercise

Tributes have been paid to a sergeant who was killed in a shooting accident at an army range.

Gavin Hillier, who was from the Welsh Guards, died on Thursday, when a live firing exercise was taking place at the Castlemartin range in Pembrokeshire.

It is understood Sergeant Hillier was due to be deployed to Iraq and had previously been awarded a Long Service and Good Conduct medal by Prince Charles, the regiment’s Colonel in Chief, in 2019.

Defence sources told The Times the “tragic accident” came as the the 35-year-old was taking part in “tactical and live firing training” in the dark.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm Sergeant Gavin Hillier from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards died on March 4, 2021.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“An investigation is underway and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

Friends also paid tribute to Sergeant Hillier on social media.

His heartbroken dad Mark said he died doing “the job he loved”, Wales Online reported.

He wrote on Facebook : “Absolutely devastated to be writing this post, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“At 3.45 this morning I received a phone call that will forever change my life.

“My eldest son was in a fatal accident, in the army, the job he loved.

“Sleep tight and rest in peace son. I’m so proud of you. Goodnight and God bless. Love you’re heartbroken dad, xxx.”

A fellow soldier posted online: “Such sad news to hear this morning, such a great leader and what a guy to work along side.

“RIP, mate see you on the reorg.”

The Welsh Guards are based at Buckingham Palace and Windsor where they protect the Queen.

The MOD firing notice shows firing exercises have been carried out at the range every day this week, with a number of roads and footpaths closed to allow the training to go ahead.

Welsh police and the Defence Accidents Investigation Branch have opened an investigation.

Police said officers were liaising with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Ministry of Defence.

Sergeant Hillier is the fourth member of the military to die at the range since 2012.

In 2017 a tank explosion caused by a design flaw claimed the lives of two soliders.

In July 2018 a 21-year-old soldier was killed by a stray bullet at the range, leader to the jailing of an army capation.