The U.S. Marine Corps has relieved of duty three officers less than two months after a live-fire accident killed seven Marines and injured eight others at the Hawthorne Army Depot, a spokesman at Camp Lejeune, N.C., confirmed Thursday.
A 60-millimeter mortar exploded in the firing tube during a night exercise at HAD on March 18. The Marines from the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment had been training at the U.S.M.C Mountain Warfare Center near Bridgeport, Calif., before training at Hawthorne.
A spokesman for the Marine Corps said Brig. Gen. James Lukeman, commander of the 2nd Marine Division, relieved on Tuesday Lt. Col. Andrew McNulty, commander of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines at Camp Lejeune; Capt. Kelby Breivogel, commander of the battalion’s Alpha Company; and Chief Warrant Officer Douglas Derring, the battalion’s infantry weapons officer.
“The investigation is not complete, but the preliminary findings did influence the general’s decision to remove the three,” said 1st. Lt. D. Oliver David, public affairs officer for the 2nd Marine Division.
The Marine Corps did not explain the direct role of the three officers in the incident.
Those killed in the accident were Pfc. Joshua M. Martino, 19, of Clearfield, Pa.; Lance Cpl. David P. Fenn II, 20, of Polk City, Fla.; Lance Cpl. Roger W. Muchnick Jr., 23, of Fairfield, Conn.; Lance Cpl. Joshua C. Taylor, 21, of Marietta, Ohio; Lance Cpl. Mason J. Vanderwork, 21, of Hickory, N.C.; Lance Cpl. William T. Wild IV, 21, of Anne Arundel, Md.; and Corporal Aaron J. Ripperda, 26, of Madison, Ill.
The 60-mm mortar has been used extensive in Afghanistan and Iraq; however, after the explosion, a worldwide moratorium was placed on the use of the type of mortar that exploded.