Live-fire blast kills soldier on Big Island
Four other soldiers from the 25th Division are wounded during training at Pohakuloa
The Army is investigating an "accidental munitions explosion" that killed a 25th Infantry Division soldier and wounded four others at the Big island's Pohakuloa Training Area Friday.
The Army said the soldiers were participating in a training exercise using live ammunition.
The four injured soldiers are at the Queen's Medical Center, where they were taken by Coast Guard C-130 cargo plane early yesterday morning after initially being treated at Hilo Hospital.
The names of the soldiers, their unit, as well as any information about the shooting incident were not released, pending notification of the soldiers' next of kin, Army spokesman Kendrick Washington said last night.
Army safety investigators from the mainland are expected in the islands to head the probe, since a soldier was killed, Washington said.
The Hawaii County Fire Department, in its accident report, said the soldiers "sustained blast trauma due to munitions malfunction."
Seventeen Big Island firefighters responded to the 4:16 p.m. alarm. All five soldiers were flown by Army Black Hawk helicopters to Hilo Hospital.
Live-fire exercises either involve soldiers firing live ammunition while clearing trenches or houses, or from the beds of trucks during practice convoy operations.
Since 1996, 11 soldiers have been killed and 18 others have been injured in training exercises at Schofield Barracks and PTA.
Of the five training accidents, three involved helicopter crashes.
The Army's worst training accident occurred Feb. 12, 2001. Six soldiers were killed and 11 injured when two Black Hawk helicopters collided during a night exercise over the Kahuku training area.
The last training accident occurred in April 14, 2002, when a soldier was killed and three hurt when a hand grenade exploded during a night exercise at Schofield Barracks.
Two years earlier -- on April 12, 2000 -- a solder from the 65th Engineer Battalion was killed and four others were injured at PTA in an accident that involved two bangalore torpedoes used to breech wire obstacles.
Last week Hawaii Army Weekly reported that the "Mustangs" of the 325th Brigade Support Battalion were involved in firing live ammunition during their 25-day deployment to PTA. The article did not say when the unit was expected to finish its training.
The 325th Battalion and other soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, who will leave this summer for a year in Iraq, have been forced to do much of their training using live ammunition at the 109,000-acre Big Island facility because a federal ruling last month banned the use of live fire at Makua Valley Military Reservation until the Army completes an environmental impact study.
Many of the 7,000 Schofield soldiers heading to Iraq this summer, including some belonging to the 325th Battalion, returned from Afghanistan last April.
At PTA, the Mustangs participated in a three-day night and day convoy live-fire exercise that involved simulated improvised explosive devices and pop-up targets that allowed soldiers to shoot from a moving vehicle, according to the Hawaii Army Weekly article.
Much of the missions for support units like the 325th in Iraq are operating and protecting truck convoys. The Army said the Mustangs fired more than 200,000 rounds of ammunition and covered thousands of combined miles while simulating combat.
"This type of training is close to the real thing," Sgt. Edon Corinaldi, who was deployed to Iraq with 4th Infantry Division in 2003, told the Army newspaper.
Capt. Pamela Wright, the unit's logistics officer, estimated that about 80 percent of the battalion is new and did not deploy to Afghanistan.
PAST ARMY TRAINING ACCIDENTS IN HAWAII
A Hawaii Army National Guard soldier was killed when he was accidentally shot by a M-60 machine gun during summer annual training exercises at the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island.
MARCH 5, 1996
Pilot and co-pilot of an AH-1 Cobra gunship were killed at Schofield Barracks when their engine failed.
APRIL 12, 2000
A soldier with the 65th Engineer Battalion was killed and four others injured when a mistake was made rigging two bangalore torpedoes at the Big Island's Pohakuloa Training Area.
FEB. 12, 2001
Six soldiers were killed and 11 injured when two Black Hawk helicopters collided during a night training exercise over Kahuku in Hawaii's worst Army training accident.
APRIL 14, 2002
One soldiers killed, three injured when a hand grenade exploded during a night training accident at Schofield Barracks.