Report: Mortar Tube Led to Deadly Hawthorne Explosion

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email




RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A military investigation has concluded an accidental explosion that killed seven Camp Lejeune Marines during a nighttime training exercise was the result of human error and insufficient training.

Marine spokesman Lt. Adam Flores said Wednesday that the investigation found the deadly March 18 explosion was triggered when a Marine dropped a second round into an already loaded mortar tube during a live-fire exercise at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada. Two officers and a noncommissioned officer were relieved of command following the explosion.

The investigation determined that the 60 mm mortar functioned properly and that the weapon system is safe when used as designed by properly trained Marines.

Those killed ranged in age from 19 to 26. Seven additional Marines and a Navy sailor were also wounded in the blast.


CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) - A military investigation has determined human error was to blame for a March mortar explosion that killed seven U.S. Marines in Nevada.

1st Lt. Oliver David, a spokesman at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, said in a press release Wednesday that a Marine operating a 60 mm mortar tube and ammunition "did not follow correct procedures, resulting in the detonation of a high explosive round at the mortar position."

The Marines did not release a copy of the investigative report and declined to provide any further details about the nature of the deadly mistake. Officials also would not say whether changes to training procedures were enacted as a result of the review.

Marine officials announced earlier this month that two officers and a non-commissioned officer were removed from command following the March 18 accident at Hawthorne Army Depot. Seven Marines and a sailor were also wounded.

World wide use of the 60 mm mortar was suspended for a time. That suspension has now been lifted. The weapons system and the ordnance has been judged safe when used properly.

Hawthorne is the home of a huge Army Ammunition Depot, but its desert terrain apparently resembles that of Afghanistan and has been used increasingly in recent years for training exercises for troops preparing to deploy there.

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