Seven Marines were killed due to a mortar explosion during a Marine Corps training exercise at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada, while eight others were injured.
The Hawthorne Army Depot is a facility used by troops heading overseas. While it’s not exactly clear how the explosion happened, an investigation is underway. It’s thought to have happened when a 60mm mortar shell exploded in the tube while Marines were preparing to fire it. The 60-millimeter mortar shell typically requires three to four Marines to operate, but is common during training for others to observe nearby.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who represents Nevada, called it “quite a big explosion” and said the area of the blast was cordoned off as details emerged. “We don’t know exactly what happened, but it was a violent explosion, we know that,” he said.
The Marines immediately issued an indefinite moratorium on firing of all such mortars worldwide until an investigation clears as safe the type of weapon and ammunition in the tragedy.
A Marine official said the moratorium would remain in effect until an 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 to continue to use.
The moratorium could last for weeks or months.
“We send our prayers and condolences to the families of Marines involved in this tragic incident. We remain focused on ensuring that they are supported through this difficult time,” said Maj. Gen. Raymond C. Fox, commanding general of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, which includes the 2nd Division. “We mourn their loss, and it is with heavy hearts we remember their courage and sacrifice.”
The Marines involved were part of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
The rescue was complicated because of the remoteness of the training camp, which simulates conditions of Afghanistan. A helicopter ride to Reno is 41 minutes long, according to Care Flight spokesman Kurt Althof, and the distance is 2 ½ hours by car. He said Hawthorne and other rural communities rely on helicopters for much of their emergency response.
According to spokesman Mark Earnest, Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, the area’s major trauma hospital, took eight patients, including one who died, five who are in serious condition, one in fair condition, and one who has been discharged.
All the patients are men under the age of 30, he said. Hospital officials described their injuries as penetrating trauma, fractures and vascular injuries. The names of those killed won’t be released until 24 hours after their families are notified.
“The hospitals aren’t equipped to handle anything even remotely close to this event,” Althof said.
Marines Killed in Nevada
7 Marines Killed in Explosion During Training At Army Depot In Nevada
Seven Marines were killed and eight wounded late Monday when a 60mm mortar round exploded during a training exercise at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada, according to military and defense officials.
7 U.S. Marines killed in mortar explosion in Nevada
Marine Helicopter Crash Near Yuma Kills Seven
Sundance Helicopter Touring Hoover Dam Leaving 5 Dead After Crash
Taliban Attacks Kill Two at U.S.-British Base; Prince Harry Safe
Four California Men Arrested for Terror Plot to Kill Americans and Destroy the US