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British soldier drowned in river while off-duty in Estonia, inquest hears

Israel Delanimati's cause of death was recorded as “asphyxiation caused by drowning” (British Army Support Officer - Fiji)
Israel Delanimati's cause of death was recorded as “asphyxiation caused by drowning” (British Army Support Officer - Fiji)

A British soldier drowned in a river while off-duty in Estonia, an inquest has heard.

Rifleman Israel Delanimati, 24, drowned in a river near the southern city of Tartu on 3 June, Southwark Coroner’s Court heard on Wednesday.

Opening the inquest into Delanimati’s death, assistant coroner Dr Julian Morris said that the soldier was seen entering the river in the early hours of the morning.

“He was, in the early hours of June 3 seen to enter a river in Estonia, near Tartu,” he said. “But sadly, his body was then recovered the following day, at 3pm on 4 June.”

Dr Morris said that there is currently “no knowledge” as to why the riflemen entered the river that morning.

He said that Delanimati’s cause of death was recorded by Estonian medical personnel as “asphyxiation caused by drowning”.

However, he added that there were still some Estonian documents relating to the soldier’s death that required translation.

At the time of his death, Delanimati was deployed with the 3rd Battalion The Rifles (3 Rifles) in Estonia as part of Operation Cabrit.

Lieutenant Colonel JM Barry MBE, commanding officer of the 3 Rifles, was among those to pay tribute to the “kind-hearted” rifleman after his death.

He said: “Good humoured, kind-hearted, softly spoken but with an iron will, rifleman Israel Delanimati was the personification of selfless commitment.

“Although still a young man, he had found the time to invest in deep passions for musicianship, martial arts, and cooking. We are honoured that he added soldiering to that list.

“It has been our privilege to call Rifleman Delanimati a comrade and fellow rifleman.”

Major CS Flood added: “Rifleman Delanimati only arrived in A Company last year, but had already left a huge impression on us all. He joined us just before an exercise in Germany and our deployment to Estonia; his excitement in the face of those new challenges – despite the freezing temperatures in January - was palpable.

“‘Del’ was known for his ready smile which could seemingly brighten any room. He had time for anyone. I will remember him as a rifleman of impeccable personal values; unrelentingly gracious and utterly determined to leave everyone at ease.

“Even at the hardest of times, when most would lack patience, Del could find a reason to grin. Simply, he was someone you wanted to be around and a rifleman you always wanted on your team.”