Marine Corps Gen. Jim Amos says investigators will determine the cause of an explosion that killed seven Marines and wounded several others. (Sgt. Charles Mabry / Marine Corps)
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The commandant of the Marine Corps pledged that investigators would determine the cause of an explosion that killed seven Marines this week during a live-fire exercise in Nevada.
“We’re going to find out,” Gen. James Amos told USA TODAY in an interview.
Teams of investigators have begun examining evidence to determine what caused a shell to explode prematurely inside a mortar tube during the live-fire exercise Monday night .
The Marines have suspended the use of the 60mm mortar during all training exercises. It can be used in combat only after a risk assessment is made and an authorization is granted by a general, the Marines said.
Investigators will examine evidence and interview witnesses. They will also determine whether there have been any reported incidents involving 60mm ammunition or tubes in the past.
Amos said a cause had not yet been determined.
The 60mm mortar is a simple and reliable weapon, and variants of it have been used by the infantry for decades. Most of the Marines killed were trained mortarmen.
The mortar can be used on a bipod or can be hand-held so it can be used quickly if troops are on the move or pursuing a target.
The Marines killed in the accident were from 1st battalion, 9th Marines based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The accident happened at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada, a live-fire training ground.
The accident occurred during part of a training series that starts at the Marines’ Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif.
The battalion is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan early next year.