8th Marine dies after Nevada mortar explosion

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NBC News
Associated Press

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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Earlier story:

Seven U.S. Marines were killed and at least seven wounded when a mortar exploded during a live-fire training exercise overnight at an Army munitions depot in the Nevada desert, military officials told NBC News.

There were conflicting reports about what happened. According to one account, a 60-millimeter mortar shell exploded in a tube as Marines were preparing to fire it. Another account said that the shell exploded as Marines were picking it up to load it.

The accident happened just before 10 p.m. Monday at Hawthorne Army Depot, a 147,000-acre ammunition storage and training facility just east of the California line.

Four Marines were killed instantly, military officials told NBC News. The two others died while waiting to be flown to the hospital.

The injured were taken to two hospitals. Stacy Kendall, a spokeswoman for Renown Regional Medical Center, a trauma center about 100 miles away in Reno, said the injuries included traumas and fractures.

The Marines were part of the 2nd Marine Division, a ground combat force based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The depot’s website says it is a training facility for Special Operations forces preparing to deploy to the Middle East.

A Marines spokesman said that the dead would be identified publicly 24 hours after their next of kin were 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 Maj. Gen. Raymond C. Fox, commanding general of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, which includes the 2nd Division. “We mourn their loss, and it is with heavy hearts we remember their courage and sacrifice.”

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