Military Bans Mortars After Marine Deaths

Pentagon issues mortar moratorium following deadly training disaster

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 20, 2013 8:15 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Pentagon has issued a "blanket suspension" on all 60mm mortar rounds until it can figure out what went wrong in the tragic mortar blast that killed seven Marines in Nevada on Monday night, reports CBS. The move follows an earlier ban on rounds that were manufactured along with the mortar in question, which exploded while still in its firing tube at the Hawthorne Army Depot.

Firing a mortar is typically a three- to four-person job: a shell is dropped into a tube where it hits a firing pin and is blasted back out. But a premature explosion in the mortar pit can take out anyone nearby—in addition to the seven Marines killed, eight others were injured in the blast, Reuters reports. It's still unclear whether the accident was caused by user error, the firing device, or the mortar shell itself. But the moratorium will remain in effect until an investigation is complete, possibly months away.

A billboard asks people to pray for the Marines killed in Hawthorne, Nevada, on Monday, March 18, 2013. A mortar shell explosion killed seven Marines during training in Nevada's high desert.
A billboard asks people to pray for the Marines killed in Hawthorne, Nevada, on Monday, March 18, 2013. A mortar shell explosion killed seven Marines during training in Nevada's high desert.   (AP Photo/The Reno Gazette-Journal, Marilyn Newton)
Marines have been banned from using 60 mm mortar shells following a training accident that killed seven and injured eight.
Marines have been banned from using 60 mm mortar shells following a training accident that killed seven and injured eight.   (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Marine Brig. Gen. Jim Lukeman address the media outside the gates of Camp Lejeune, NC, on Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Seven Marines from the base were killed in a mortar accident in Nevada Monday night.
Marine Brig. Gen. Jim Lukeman address the media outside the gates of Camp Lejeune, NC, on Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Seven Marines from the base were killed in a mortar accident in Nevada Monday night.   (AP Photo/Allen Breed)
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