Mortar blast killed soldier in training
Four more were hurt, one critically, in the exercise at Pohakuloa
An exploding 81 mm mortar round was responsible for killing a soldier and injuring four others during a live-fire exercise Friday at the Big Island's Pohakuloa Training Area.
Killed in the accident was Staff Sgt. Oscar Rodriguez, 20, an Iraqi war veteran. Rodriguez was a member of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team's 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, which returned from a one-year combat tour in Iraq in January 2005.
Three of the soldiers are in stable condition, said Kendrick Washington, 25th Infantry Division spokesman, and one is in critical condition at the Queen's Medical Center.
One of the soldiers in stable condition has been transferred to Tripler Army Medical Center. The Army will not release their names or extent of their injuries.
Washington said the two other soldiers in stable condition will eventually be transferred to Tripler.
"The cause of the explosion and what the soldiers were doing at that exact time of the explosion are still the subject of investigation," Washington said.
At the time of the accident on Friday afternoon, Rodriguez was heading a mortar section, which is generally made up of five soldiers. The 81 mm mortar is a smooth-bore, muzzle-loaded, high-angle, indirect-fire weapon with a range of 2.7 to 7 miles.
During live-fire infantry training, 81 mm mortars are generally placed to the rear or sides of the advancing soldiers, with rounds fired down range over the soldier's heads to help them become accustomed to the noise, dust and confusion.
The investigation, which could take as long as six weeks, is being conducted by the Combat Readiness Center.
The accident also is being investigated by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division.
Washington said the accident occurred just a few days before the unit, which had been at Pohakuloa since the end of February, was scheduled to return to Schofield Barracks.
He said the accident hasn't affected Army training. "The only place training has been suspended is at the accident site," Washington said.
Rodriguez was the 12th soldier to die in training accidents at Schofield Barracks or Pohakuloa since 1990.
81 MM MORTAR
A closer look at the weapon:
Length: 56 inches
Weight: 89 pounds (40.41 kilograms)
Bore diameter: 81 mm
Maximum effective range: 7 miles
Minimum range: 264 feet
Maximum rate of fire: 33 rounds per minute
Elevation: 45 to 85 degrees
Explosive power of round: 2 pounds of TNT
Source: Global Security