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Lejeune Officers Relieved Of Duty After Accident That Killed 7 Marines

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Three officers have been relieved of their command after the training accident in March that claimed the lives of seven Marines.

The three Marine officers that were relieved include Lt. Col. Andrew McNulty, Capt. Kelby Breivogel and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Douglas Derring.

McNutly was the battalion commander for 1st Battalion 9th Marines, while Breivogel was a company commander and Derring an infantry weapons officer.

The seven Marines were killed during a nighttime live fire training exercise at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada on March 18. The 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force was involved in pre-deployment training when a mortar shell exploded in its firing tube.



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Thursday night the Marine Corps released the names of 6 of the 8 Camp Lejeune marines injured in that deadly explosion in Nevada Monday night.

Seven marines with 1st battalion, 9th marine regiment were killed. Their identities were released Wednesday night.

The 6 injured who have been identified are LCPL Sean Burke, LCPL Douglas Hand II, LCPL Myles Harris, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Ian McClanahan, Sgt. Caleb Patton, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ryan West. Their hometowns have not been released.

The injured were transported to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nevada for treatment and further evaluation. McClanahan is considered very seriously injured. Burke, Hand, Harris, Patton and West are seriously injured and two marines were treated for minor injuries and released.


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A Nevada hospital says two more Camp Lejeune Marines have been upgraded to fair condition while they recover from a mortar blast that killed seven others Monday night.

Only one of the six being treated at Renown Regional Medical Center remains in serious condition. Hospital officials said Thursday the other five all are now considered fair.

Seven members of 1st Battalion, 9th Marines were killed when a mortar shell exploded in its firing tube during an exercise at Hawthorne Army Depot about 150 miles southeast of Reno.

Wednesday night Camp Lejeune released the names of those killed.

Here are profiles of the victims:

AARON RIPPERDA, 26

Ripperda was a football player while he attended high school in Highland, Ill., near St. Louis. He was respectful and hardworking, according to Highland High School Assistant Principal Karen Gauen, and "definitely had the discipline for the military."

Ripperda had dreams of becoming a professional chef. His aunt, Beverly Lesicko, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he joined the Marines for a chance to explore the world. He was scheduled to come home in May.

JOSH TAYLOR, 21

Marine Lance Cpl. Taylor, who worked with mortars and served tours in Afghanistan and Kuwait, had dreamed being in the Corps since watching the History Channel as a boy. He joined right after graduating from a high school in Marietta, Ohio, in 2010.

Taylor's grandfather, Larry Stephens, said Taylor was engaged to be married, with a wedding planned for May.

His fiancee's father called him an exceptional person.

"You don't meet many young men like him today," Keith Malone told The Marietta Times. "He was respectful to everyone, very humble, just happy, happy all the time."

Taylor is also survived by three sisters and a brother.

ROGER MUCHNICK, 23

Muchnick, who'd been in the Marines for about three years, had served in Afghanistan and was considering returning to college after his enlistment was up. He played high school lacrosse and football in Westport, Conn., and later played lacrosse at Eastern Connecticut State University, where he studied business.

In a biography on the university's website, Muchnick said the one thing he would like to do before he died was "live," and his most embarrassing moment was getting caught lip-synching in a school talent show.

"He was at the top of his game when this happened," said his grandfather, Jerome Muchnick. "You can't imagine losing a very handsome, 23-year-old grandson who was vital and loving."

JOSH MARTINO, 19

Pfc. Martino, who hailed from Dubois, Pa., and was preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan, aspired to be a Marine since boyhood.

"Since he was probably 8 years old he wanted to be a Marine," said his mother, Karen Perry. "That's all he wanted to do."

Martino was a talkative former high school athlete and accomplished hunter who hoped to marry his fiancee later this year, Perry said.

His mother said she first heard a radio news report about the Monday accident, then three Marines arrived at her workplace to say her son was among the seven dead.

WILLIAM TAYLOR WILD IV, 21

Lance Cpl. Wild joined the Marines shortly after graduating in 2010 from Severna Park High School near Annapolis, Md. His mother, Elizabeth Wild, said he was in a weapons platoon that was scheduled to deploy in November to Afghanistan. He already had been deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Kuwait.

Wild said her son always wanted to go into the military, like his father, who is a command chief in the Air Force Reserve at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

DAVID FENN II, 20

Lance Cpl. Fenn, who was from Polk City, Fla., enlisted with the Marine Corps in June 2010. He was promoted to his current rank nine months later. Fenn, who served as a mortarman, received numerous accolades including a Combat Action Ribbon and National Defense Service Medal. He was last deployed in 2011 to Afghanistan.

MASON VANDERWORK, 21

Lance Cpl. Vanderwork, who was last deployed in 2011 to serve in the war in Afghanistan, was a native of Hickory, N.C. Vanderwork joined the Marines in June 2010 and was promoted to his current rank by August 2011. He received several awards including the National Defense Service Medal.


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Family members have identified the seven Camp Lejeune Marines killed in Monday night's explosion in Nevada. The Marine Corps confirmed the fatalities Wednesday night.

AARON RIPPERDA, 26

Ripperda was a football player while he attended high school in Highland, Ill., near St. Louis. He was respectful and hardworking, according to Highland High School Assistant Principal Karen Gauen, and "definitely had the discipline for the military."

Ripperda had dreams of becoming a professional chef. His aunt, Beverly Lesicko, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he joined the Marines for a chance to explore the world. He was scheduled to come home in May.

JOSH TAYLOR, 21

Marine Lance Cpl. Taylor, who worked with mortars and served tours in Afghanistan and Kuwait, had dreamed being in the Corps since watching the History Channel as a boy. He joined right after graduating from a high school in Marietta, Ohio, in 2010.

Taylor's grandfather, Larry Stephens, said Taylor was engaged to be married, with a wedding planned for May.

His fiancee's father called him an exceptional person.

"You don't meet many young men like him today," Keith Malone told The Marietta Times. "He was respectful to everyone, very humble, just happy, happy all the time."

Taylor is also survived by three sisters and a brother.

ROGER MUCHNICK, 23

Muchnick, who'd been in the Marines for about three years, had served in Afghanistan and was considering returning to college after his enlistment was up. He played high school lacrosse and football in Westport, Conn., and later played lacrosse at Eastern Connecticut State University, where he studied business.

In a biography on the university's website, Muchnick said the one thing he would like to do before he died was "live," and his most embarrassing moment was getting caught lip-synching in a school talent show.

"He was at the top of his game when this happened," said his grandfather, Jerome Muchnick. "You can't imagine losing a very handsome, 23-year-old grandson who was vital and loving."

JOSH MARTINO, 19

Pfc. Martino, who hailed from Dubois, Pa., and was preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan, aspired to be a Marine since boyhood.

"Since he was probably 8 years old he wanted to be a Marine," said his mother, Karen Perry. "That's all he wanted to do."

Martino was a talkative former high school athlete and accomplished hunter who hoped to marry his fiancee later this year, Perry said.

His mother said she first heard a radio news report about the Monday accident, then three Marines arrived at her workplace to say her son was among the seven dead.

DAVID FENN, 20

NBC News has another victim in the training exercise as 20-year-old David Fenn. Records say Fenn is from Polk City, Florida.

Camp Lejeune says it expects to release the names of all the victims around 10:00 p.m. tonight.

Marines say eight others were injured in the blast which occurred during a live fire training exercise. Of those, a sailor is considered very seriously injured, five others are seriously injured, while two Marines have been treated and are back with their unit.

MASON VANDERWORK

The Charlotte Observer says that Vanderwork was a graduate of St. Stephens High School in Hickory.

WILLIAM 'TAYLOR' WILD

The NBC station in Baltimore says Wild graduated from Severna Park High School in 2010. WBAL says the Marine played on the varsity baseball team.

Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Andrew J. McNulty of the1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment released the following statement:

"A great tragedy occurred to the Marine Corps and the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, family on March 18, 2013. We lost seven Marines in a training accident where it appears that a 60mm mortar system failed to function as designed. We also have seven Marines and one Sailor recovering from physical injuries as well as many more recovering from the events of that night. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go out to the families and friends of our fallen angels.

Currently, there are several teams of investigators already on site, working around the clock, to determine what happened so we can prevent it from happening again. We do not know what caused the mortar system failure.

We completed a Winter Mountain Exercise at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif., on March 11, 2013, and transitioned to live-fire training that started on March 13, 2013, at Hawthorne Army Depot, Nev. The Marines and Sailors of 1/9 performed superbly throughout the training at both locations. We expected to complete the exercise upon the conclusion of the night live fire training, which we were in the process of executing on that fateful evening.

The Marines' and Sailors' response to the incident to provide first aid for our injured was nothing short of heroic. There were numerous acts of selflessness as our injured cared for each other and directed corpsmen to care for more severely injured before being treated themselves. The Marines and Sailors on scene did everything possible to care for and save those affected by the mortar system malfunction.

The outpouring of support from the local community, the police and medical personnel who cared for our Marines and Sailors, other units throughout the Marine Corps, and the American public is truly humbling. Through their efforts, we are able to better assist the families of the fallen and injured.

It is through our actions that we honor and memorialize the fallen. Our efforts are now dedicated to caring for our injured, their family and friends, the families and friends of our fallen, and the Marines and Sailors of the battalion."


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Camp Lejeune officials tell WITN that seven Marines were killed in the live fire training exercise in Nevada, and 8 others injured.

Officials said of those injured, one is a a Navy Corpsman.

One Marine and one sailor are now considered very seriously injured, while four others are seriously injured. Officials said one Marine has been treated for minor injuries and another has been released.

The Associated Press, and other media outlets, report 8 Marines were killed in the mortar shell explosion in Nevada.

The explosion occurred Monday night at the Hawthorne Army Depot during an exercise involving the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.

A 21-year-old Marine from Ohio was among those killed.

Marine Lance Corporal Josh Taylor's grandfather, Larry Stephens, confirmed Wednesday that he was killed in the training exercise Monday night.

Stephens says his grandson fulfilled a nearly lifelong dream when he joined the military right after graduating from high school in Marietta, Ohio in 2010.

Stephens says his grandson had talked about being a Marine since he was about 5, watching the History Channel and studying the military. After joining, he worked with mortars and served tours in Afghanistan and Kuwait, and was preparing for another tour in Afghanistan.

Stephens calls Taylor "polite, respectful," and says he would "do anything for anybody."

Taylor was engaged to be married, with a wedding planned for May.


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HAWTHORNE, Nev. (AP) -- A Veterans of Foreign Wars official says an eighth Marine has died after a mortar shell explosion during mountain warfare training in Nevada's high desert.

John Stroud, national junior vice commander in chief for the VWF, began a memorial event near the site of the blast by saying "one of the critical has passed."

Mourners then laid eight floral arrangements at a park near the Hawthorne Army Depot.

Stroud says he spoke with Marine officers who gave him the news before Tuesday night's ceremony. Messages left for a Marine spokesman were not immediately returned.

The explosion occurred Monday night at the sprawling facility during an exercise involving the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Several Marines from the unit were injured in the blast.

The identities of those killed won't be released until 24 hours after their families are notified.


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Camp Lejeune officials now say 8 people were injured, one more than previously thought, in the explosion that killed seven 2nd Marine Division Marines at at Hawthorne Army Depot, Nevada. Seven Marines and a Navy Corpsman were injured.

One Marine and one sailor are now considered very seriously injured. Four others are seriously injured, and one Marine has been treated for minor injuries and one has been released.

No names of the killed and injured had not been released as of Tuesday evening.

The fatal incident occurred during a training exercise shortly before 10 p.m. Monday.

The injured were taken to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nevada for treatment and further evaluation.

Brigadier Gen. Jim Lukeman, 2nd Marine Division Commanding General conducted a press conference Tuesday and shared his comments on the incident with attending media.

"We send our prayers and condolences to the families of the Marines and sailors who have been killed and injured in this tragic accident," Lukeman said. "Our first priority is to provide them with the support they need during this very difficult time, and we're doing that right now."

Though the cause of the accident is currently under investigation, Lukeman was able to provide some preliminary insight.

"Let me tell you what we know at this time. The Marines were conducting live fire and maneuver training at the Hawthorne Army Depot. A (60mm) mortar round exploded in the mortar tube causing the deaths of seven and injuring (now eight) others. We don't know yet what caused this malfunction."


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A Camp Lejeune general says seven Marines were killed and another seven injured when a mortar round exploded last night at a Nevada training facility.

Brig. General Jim Lukeman spoke to the media this afternoon at Camp Lejeune's main gate. He said while the cause is under investigation, they do know that a 60mm shell exploded in a mortar tube during a live afire and maneuver training.

Lukeman, who is commander of the 2nd Marine Division, says three Marines and a sailor were very seriously injured, three other Marines were seriously injured and another treated and released.

Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, the area's major trauma hospital, took nine patients, including one who died, three who are in serious condition and five who are in fair condition, according to spokeswoman Stacy Kendall. All the patients are men under the age of 30, she said. Kendall described their injuries as penetrating trauma, fractures and vascular injuries.

The Marine unit, which he did not identify, had been training at the Hawthorne Army Depot for about a month.

Lukeman said they have suspended the use of the specific lot of 60mm shells at the current time. He said the Marine Corps is still in the process of notifying the families involved.


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Seven Marines from Camp Lejeune were killed when a 60mm mortar exploded unexpectedly at a Nevada military depot that's an important training facility for special forces headed overseas, a Marine Corps official 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. Several other Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force were hurt in the accident shortly before 10 p.m. PDT Monday at the Hawthorne Army Depot.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was not immediately clear whether the mortar exploded prematurely inside its firing tube or whether more than a single round exploded. The official was not authorized to speak to a reporter about the accident.

The 60mm mortar is a weapon that traditionally requires three to four Marines to operate, but it's common during training for others to observe nearby.

Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, the area's major trauma hospital, took nine patients, including one who died, three who are in serious condition and five who are in fair condition, according to spokeswoman Stacy Kendall. All the patients are men under the age of 30, she said. Kendall described their injuries as penetrating trauma, fractures and vascular injuries.

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."

The Marine Corps official said it was unclear why the mortar exploded unexpectedly or whether the shell exploded before it had been expelled from its firing tube. An explosion at the point of firing in a training exercise could kill or maim anyone inside or nearby the protective mortar pit and could conclusively detonate any mortars stored nearby in a phenomenon known as "sympathetic detonation."

The official did not know whether the seven dead Marines and several others who were hurt were in the same firing pit, standing nearby for training observation or in an adjoining mortar pit, but any of those situations would have been them in danger after such an explosion.

The official said a worldwide moratorium after such an accident is not unusual and would persist until the 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 official said it would be normal to warn other U.S. military branches that use 60mm mortars, such as the Army, about the Marines warning. The moratorium could last for weeks or months.

The investigation will focus on whether the Marines followed procedures to properly fire the weapon, whether there was a malfunction in the firing device or in the explosive mortar itself, the official said.

The Hawthorne Army Depot stores and disposes of ammunition. The facility is made up of hundreds of buildings spread over more than 230 square miles.

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.

Nevada and North Carolina political leaders expressed their sympathy.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., gave his condolences to victims of the explosion during a Tuesday morning speech on the Senate floor. "My thoughts are with those who were injured. My heart goes out to the families of those who lost their lives. And my sympathies are with their fellow Marines, who are also grieving this loss."

Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller tweeted, "Thoughts and prayers are with the families who lost a loved one in the Hawthorne Army Depot explosion. Grateful for their service."

"The men and women who work and train there put service ahead of self each and every day," Republican Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a statement. "Kathleen and I wish to extend our deepest sympathies to those killed and their families. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been injured and we pray for their speedy recovery."

"I was so saddened to learn about the seven Marines from Camp Lejeune who were killed last night in Nevada," U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., said in a statement. "My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the Marines who were killed and those who were injured, and I will continue to monitor the investigation so we can find out what happened and take appropriate steps."

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Marine Corps official says the seven Marines killed in Nevada died after a 60mm mortar exploded unexpectedly during a training accident. 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. Several other Marines were hurt.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was not immediately clear whether the mortar exploded prematurely inside its firing tube or whether more than a single round exploded. The official was not authorized to speak to a reporter about the accident.

The 60mm mortar is a weapon that traditionally requires three to four Marines to operate, but it's common during training for others to observe nearby.


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Seven Marines from Camp Lejeune were killed late last night after an explosion at an U.S. military facility in western Nevada.

The mishap occurred at the Hawthorne Army Depot around 10:00 p.m. Camp Lejeune says seven Marines were killed and several others with the 2nd Marine Division were injured.

NBC News says at least seven Marines were wounded. The network says the accident happened when a mortar exploded during a live-fire training exercise.

"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, II MEF commanding general. "We mourn their loss, and it is with heavy hearts we remember their courage and sacrifice."

The names of those killed have not yet been released, while the injured Marines have been transported to Nevada hospitals for treatment.

The Marine Corps says the cause of the explosion is under investigation.


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