Seven U.S. Marines were killed and seven more injured when a mortar exploded during a live-fire training exercise at Hawthorne Army Depot in the Nevada desert, the Marine Corps said Tuesday.
The cause of the explosion is still under investigation. Conflicting reports were made, one said a 60-millimeter mortar shell exploded as Marines were readying to fire it and another said it exploded as Marines picked it up.
The incident occurred around 10:00 pm PST Monday at a 147,000-acre ammunition storage and training facility just east of the California line.
Stacy Kendall, spokeswoman for the Renown Regional Medical Center where eight injured were taken, said injuries included trauma and fractures. She said three of the patients were listed in serious condition.
"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, the force’s commander. "We mourn their loss, and it is with heavy hearts we remember their courage and sacrifice."
The depot, 140 miles south of Reno, was established in 1930. It stores and disposes of ammunition and provides long term storage for industrial plant equipment.
The Marines belonged to the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The depot trains special operations forces for deploymenti n the Middle East.
Identities of those killed were not released because their families have not yet been notified.