Unfired Ammunition Injured Demining Experts

The explosion that injured four U.S. demining experts in Kompong Chhnang last week was caused by un­fired ammunition, one of the people investigating the case said on Sunday.

Three U.S. Marines—Phillip Mc­Gill, Matthew Schaefer and David Crouse—and Len Austin, a contractor for Golden West Humani­tarian Foundation, are in Bangkok re­covering after the accident at the Cam­bodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) facility on Tuesday.

Roger Hess, director of field operations at Golden West, said he was in Kompong Chhnang on Sunday investigating what had happened.

Mr. Hess said he wished to clarify that the incident was caused by “un­fired stockpiled munitions”—23-millimeter ammu­nition for an an­ti-aircraft machine gun—rather than unexploded ordnance (UXO).

“That caused a lot of disturbance in the [U.S.] Embassy and the military command because they were not sup­posed to be handling UXO,” he said.

The munitions were “totally safe to handle,” he said. “An accident occurred.”

CMAC director-general Heng Ratana said the organization was working together with Golden West and the U.S. Marine Corps to investigate the incident.

“Our investigation is in progress and we cannot yet make any conclusion,” he said.

Mr. Hess, who visited Mr. Austin at Bumrungrad International Hospi­tal in Bangkok last week, said his colleague—who suffered injuries to his ab­domen in the blast—hoped to re­turn to Cambodia and continue his work this week.

“Len is recovering well,” he said, adding that he was now being kept in the hospital to monitor the risk of infection from his injures.

“I was not allowed to see the Marines…but I understand they’re recovering well,” he added.

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