Human error led to U.S. Marines' death in mortar mishap: probe

Reuters News
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Posted: May 29, 2013 1:48 PM
Human error led to U.S. Marines' death in mortar mishap: probe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The failure of Marines to follow correct procedures during a live-fire exercise in March led to the mortar blast that killed seven Marines and wounded eight service members, according to findings of an investigation partly made public on Wednesday.

The explosion at Hawthorn Army Depot in western Nevada was one of the deadliest military training accidents on U.S. soil in recent years.

The Marines were killed when a 60-mm mortar round detonated "in the immediate vicinity of the mortar section's firing position," according to a Marines Corps statement. A spokesman declined to elaborate.

"The investigation established that human error was the cause of the mortar mishap," the statement said.

"The mortar system functioned properly at Hawthorne and (the investigation) found no reason to question the safety of the system when it is employed as designed and as Marines are trained to employ it."

The investigation also found that Marines had not had the necessary training leading up to the night-time exercise.

On May 8, the Marines announced that three officers had been relieved of their command as a result of preliminary findings of the investigation.

Wednesday's statement noted that the commanding general had "lost trust and confidence in their ability to ensure proper preparation for, and conduct of, live-fire training events."

Still, no Marines has been charged with a crime and no charges are anticipated, the statement said.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Sandra Maler)