Cumberland Times-News

Local News

March 19, 2013

Mortar kills 7 Marines

HAWTHORNE, Nev. — A mortar shell explosion killed seven Marines and injured a half-dozen more during mountain warfare training in Nevada’s high desert, prompting the Pentagon to immediately halt the use of some of the weapons worldwide until an investigation can determine their safety, officials said Tuesday.

The explosion occurred Monday night at the Hawthorne Army Depot, a facility used by troops heading overseas, during an exercise involving the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Lejeune, N.C. Several Marines from the unit were injured in the blast, authorities said.

The mortar round exploded in its firing tube during the exercise, said Brigadier General Jim Lukeman at a news conference at Camp Lejeune. He said investigators are trying to determine the cause of the malfunction.

Lukeman extended condolences to the families of the victims. “Our first priority is to provide them support and we’re doing that now,” he said.

The Marine Corps said in a statement that it suspended all use of high-explosive and illumination mortar rounds that were in the same manufacturing lots as the ones that were fired in Nevada. The Pentagon suspended use of those rounds worldwide across all branches, not just the Marines.

The Marines were also considering a stop-usage order affecting the mortar tubes like the ones in the accident.

It was not immediately clear whether more than a single round exploded, a Marine Corps official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to speak about an ongoing investigation.

Eight men under the age of 30 were taken to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno with injuries, such as penetrating trauma, fractures and vascular injuries. One of them died, five were in serious condition, one in was fair condition and another was discharged, said spokesman Mark Earnest.

The identities of those killed won’t be released until 24 hours after their families are notified.

“We send our prayers and condolences to the families of Marines involved in this tragic incident,” said the force’s commander, Maj. Gen. Raymond C. Fox. “We mourn their loss, and it is with heavy hearts we remember their courage and sacrifice.”

The rescue was complicated by the remoteness of the site, which is favored because the harsh geography simulates conditions in Afghanistan.

The 60mm mortar is a weapon that traditionally requires three to four Marines to operate, but it’s common during training for others to observe nearby. The firing tube is supported in a tripod-like design and fires roughly a 3-pound shell, some 14 inches in length and a bit larger than 2 inches in diameter.

The mortar has changed little since World War II and remains one of the simplest weapons to operate, which is why it is found at the lowest level of infantry units, said Joseph Trevithick, a mortar expert with Global Security.org.

“Basically, it’s still a pipe and it’s got a firing pin at the bottom,” Trevithick said. Still, a number of things could go wrong from a fuse malfunctioning, a problem with the barrel’s assembly to a round prematurely detonating inside the tube, he said.

The Marine Corps official said an explosion at the point of firing in a training exercise could kill or maim anyone inside or nearby the protective mortar pit and could concussively detonate any mortars stored nearby in a phenomenon known as “sympathetic detonation.”

The official said a worldwide moratorium after such an accident is not unusual and would persist until the investigation determines that the weapon did not malfunction in ways that would hurt other Marines or that mortars manufactured at the same time as the one involved in the accident were safe.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Absentee ballots moving online causes security concerns

    ANNAPOLIS — Voters may get to skip the lines at the polls this summer by receiving and marking their ballots online, but election officials must first decide if the convenience outweighs the security risks.

    April 20, 2014

  • Allegany County emergency medical services honorees and supporters Allegany, Garrett emergency responders honored

    MCHENRY — The 75 people from Allegany and Garrett counties who were involved with two exceptional emergency medical services calls in 2013 were presented with awards at the recent Night for Stars program held at the Wisp Resort.

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Lexis Trickett meets with Gov. Martin O’Malley Ninth-grader among 30 at inaugural event

    OAKLAND — Lexis Trickett, a ninth-grade student at Southern Garrett High School, was among 30 girls who attended Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Leadership Forum for Women and Girls recently in Annapolis in celebration of Women’s History Month.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • School immunization requirements change

    CUMBERLAND — Changes to school immunization requirements by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene affect students entering kindergarten and seventh grade for the next school year.

    April 20, 2014

  • Easter experience Easter experience

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Game on: City interested in baseball study

    After it looked like the objection of a couple of constituents to a study on the feasibility of bringing a minor league baseball team to the area may have torpedoed the thought, county commissioners and some city officials sounded ready to sing a chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on Thursday.

    April 18, 2014

  • DEREK SHEELY Charges against helmet maker stand in case of Frostburg player’s death

    A Montgomery County judge this week declined to dismiss charges against a helmet manufacturer in a case brought by the parents of a Frostburg State University football player who died of head injuries in August 2011 following four straight days of heavy contact drills in practice.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • GAYLE MANCHIN W.Va. BOE president speaks on issues at WVSDB

    West Virginia Board of Education President Gayle Manchin responded to issues at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind during an interview with the Times-News Wednesday morning.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • REGINALD REDMAN Moorefield man jailed on felony drug count

    A Moorefield man was arrested on various charges Thursday, including a felony drug offense for possession of amphetamines, according to the Keyser Police Department.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Blossoming optimism Blossoming optimism

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

Facebook
Must Read
News related video
Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Beau Biden Plans 2016 Run for Del. Governor Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians U.S. Sending Nonlethal Aid to Ukraine Military