WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Marine Corps official says the seven North Carolina-based 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.
Eight others Marines were hurt in the incident at Hawthorne Army Depot. One of them has died, another five are in serious condition, one is in fair condition and one was released from the hospital Tuesday.
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 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. An investigation is under way.
Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) said, “I was so saddened to learn about the seven Marines from Camp Lejeune who were killed last night in Nevada. Our Marines, and all of our service members, demonstrate their bravery everyday as they serve our country. 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."
The Marine Corps said the names of those killed, who were with the 2nd Marine Division, will be released 24 hours after next of kin are notified.