RENO, Nev. (AP) — An eighth Marine has died in in a training accident at a military depot in western Nevada that serves as a storage site for munitions and an important training facility for special forces headed overseas.
A Marine commander said the accident happened when a mortar round exploded inside its firing tube during mountain training exercises. Brigadier General Jim Lukeman spoke to reporters Tuesday afternoon from Camp Lejeune, N.C. The Marines are part of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.
Six other service members were injured and it is believed at least two others have serious injuries.
Marine Corps officials say the accident happened about 10 p.m. Monday at the Hawthorne Army Depot in rural Nevada about 130 miles southeast of Reno.
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. We remain focused on ensuring that they are supported through this difficult time,” 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.”
Hawthorne has held an important place in American military history since World War II when it became the staging area for ammunition, bombs and rockets for the war. The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection says that the depot employed more than 5,500 people at its peak. Nevada was chosen for the location because of its remoteness in the wake of a devastating explosion at the government’s main depot in New Jersey in the 1920s.
It opened in September 1930 as the Naval Ammunition Depot Hawthorne and was redesignated Hawthorne Army Ammunition Plant in 1977 when it moved under the control of the Army, according to its website. In 1994, the site ended its production mission and became Hawthorne Army Depot. The site currently serves several purposes for the military, including storing ammunition and explosives and providing what the military calls an ideal training facility for special forces preparing for deployments to similar desert terrain in places like Afghanistan.
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