A COURAGEOUS natural born leader who ran out of lives.

That was how Captain Stephen Healey, who was repatriated to RAF Brize Norton yesterday, was described by his older brother.

The 29-year-old, of 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, was killed in Afghanistan on Saturday after his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device.

Tributes and respects were paid to him by about 400 people at the Memorial Garden on the edge of Carterton during the repatriation ceremony.

His brother Simon Healey, 32, said: “He was just a true leader and his courage was immense. I remember growing up as a child with him and going on holidays and playing in rock pools.

“I remember there was a pool of water and I said I wonder how deep that is. He said ‘I will see’ and just jumped in. He nearly drowned and dad had to rescue him.

“His courage was phenomenal. I remember him as a younger brother but one day he overtook, flew the nest and became a hero.”

Capt Healey was a huge football fan and captain of his teams from primary school in Cardiff, through university in Swansea and in the Army.

The centre-back joined Swansea City at 14 and signed a professional contract at 18, but his career was cut short by a serious groin injury.

Capt Healey, who was an A* student at school, went on to study sports science at Swansea University before being snapped up for officer training at Sandhurst.

He was on his second tour of Afghanistan and commanding a reconnaissance platoon when he was killed.

His brother, of Blackwood near Cardiff, said: “He was born to be a leader and the only place you can really demonstrate those skills is in the military. The military was his life.”

During his first tour Capt Healey was injured when a bomb exploded under his vehicle and in another incident drew enemy fire three times to expose the enemy.

For the second incident, which allowed his troops to return fire, he was awarded a Mention in Despatches.

His brother said: “It was like he ran out of lives. Jumping in that pool and then the bomb and now this.”

Lance Corporal Matt Thacker, who served under Capt Healey in 2010, said: “He was more like a brother and a friend than a platoon commander. It feels good to be here for him but I’m devastated this has happened.”

His former Swansea University football team-mates plan an annual fundraiser in Capt Healey’s honour to raise money for his family and forces charity Help for Heroes.

l The funeral of Corporal Brent McCarthy, who was based at RAF Brize Norton, took place yesterday. The 25-year-old, from Telford, was killed alongside Cpl Lee Davies, of 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, on May 12 and repatriated on May 17. The funeral took place at St Nicholas church in Codsall, Staffordshire.