The Marines were all from the 2nd Marine Division based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and were training at the Hawthorne Army Depot 140 miles southeast of Reno, Nev., when a mortar exploded shortly before 10 p.m. Monday.
The injured were taken to area hospitals, according to a statement from the Marines.
Several defense officials say this incident did not appear to involve a round landing on the troops.
The mountainous desert terrain of the 230 square mile depot is used as a training location for special forces since it “provides a realistic simulation of the situation in Afghanistan,” according to the depot’s website. The depot is also used as a storage site for ammunition awaiting demilitarization.
“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,” Maj. Gen. Raymond C. Fox said in a statement. “We mourn their loss, and it is with heavy hearts we remember their courage and sacrifice.”
The Marine Corps is notifying families before releasing the identities of those who were killed and said the conditions of the seven injured Marines would be shared as information becomes available.
via ABC News
A mortar shell explosion killed at least seven Marines and injured several more during mountain warfare training in Nevada’s high desert, prompting the Pentagon to immediately halt the use of the weapons until an investigation can determine their safety, officials said Tuesday.
The explosion occurred Monday night at the Hawthorne Army Depot, a sprawling 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, Brig. Gen. Jim Lukeman said at a news conference at Camp Lejeune. He said investigators were trying to determine the cause of the malfunction.
The Pentagon expanded a temporary ban to prohibit the military from firing any 60 mm mortar rounds until the results of the investigation. The Marine Corps said Tuesday a “blanket suspension” of 60 mm mortars and associated firing tubes is in effect.
The Pentagon earlier had suspended use of all high-explosive and illumination mortar rounds that were in the same manufacturing lots as ones fired in Nevada.
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.
The Marine Corps said early Tuesday that seven Marines were killed. But John Stroud, national junior vice commander in chief for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, began a memorial event in Hawthorne on Tuesday night by saying “one of the critical has passed,” bringing the death toll to eight.
Members of the women’s Auxiliary of VFW 231 then laid a wreath and eight individual floral arrangements at a park where a flag flew at half-staff within sight of the Hawthorne depot’s boundary.