AN inquest heard how SAS soldiers trying to rescue two comrades thought trapped in a burning helicopter had to be ordered away from their efforts just seconds before the aircraft exploded.

In evidence at Hereford Town Hall this morning (Monday) Soldier K, second in command of the mission in Iraq in November 2007, described the harrowing sequence of the rescue attempt - using whatever the soldiers had to hand - in increasing heat and flame with ammunition and flares going off all around.

The inquest heard how the Puma helicopter crashed while trying to land an SAS team tasked to a special night-time operation.

"I had to order the guys away, there was just enough time to get back," said Soldier K.

Sgt John Battersby and Tpr Lee Fitzsimmons died in the crash.

The inquest continues.