Soldier falls 70ft to death after being burned by pepper spray at strip club

A “funny” and “caring” soldier suffered devastating injuries and died after falling 70ft to his death from a hotel balcony, a coroner ruled.

Corporal Ryan Lovatt, from Glasgow, was out drinking with other troops during an Army-organised trip to Warsaw, Poland, on July 31, 2019.

They went to a cocktail bar in the evening before heading to the Golden Moon strip club, Oxford Coroners' Court was told.

Following an argument, bouncers at the club started using pepper spray – but 25-year-old Ryan avoided the first round, the Daily Record reports.

The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer and his friend Lance Corporal Tommy Jackson went back to the strip club to enjoy a karaoke night and ordered a round of tequila shots.

However, the bouncers quickly descended on the pair and managed to hit Ryan in the eyes with the “powerful” spray.

Talking about the “painful” pepper spray, Staff Sgt Gary Horsburgh said: “If I am honest, it messed us up. The Polish pepper spray physically burned our skin and it was put in our eyes, we were struggling.”

Cpl Jackson added: “These bouncers were not your average UK bouncers with licences, they were normal guys outside of the bar.

“They did not show any form of ID, they were dressed in civilian clothes. Ryan said his eyes were stinging. I helped Ryan into the taxi, he said his eyes hurt and that he couldn’t see.

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“It was dark, I guided him into his room, laid Ryan on his bed and he was still holding his eyes.

“We hugged each other and said good night, he thanked me for helping him and that was the last time I saw him.”

At 4.09am in the morning, Ryan fell from the seventh-floor balcony of the City Comfort hotel.

Senior investigator Staff Sgt Stephen Cook said: “We surmised that he had gone out to get some air, leaned against the netting, which has given way and he has fallen through.”

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On Wednesday, June 23, pathologist Dr Russell Delaney confirmed that Ryan had died from injuries to the chest, abdomen and pelvis following the fall, where he also fractured his spine, arm and ribs.

During the post-mortem examination, the pathologist found Ryan had drunk three times the drink-drive limit.

His body was repatriated to Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.

The court heard how the senior ranked Staff Sgt Horsburgh should have appointed a person to be “sharp watch” to remain sober during the night and should have enforced a four-drink rule as well as a midnight curfew.

They were on a six-month deployment to learn more about World War II and lay a wreath for its 75th anniversary.

Coroner Darren Salter confirmed a verdict of accidental death.

Ryan, who followed his veteran dad Colin into the Army, was given a full military send-off at Clydebank Crematorium after his death.

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In an emotional tribute, the family said: “Ryan was born into the military. He was a funny, caring, sometimes shy, always cheeky boy… he was intelligent and popular.

“Ryan loved his regiment and his unit. He trusted his fellow soldiers to have his back.

“As a family we have waited a long time to understand what has happened.”

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