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Live ordnance kills man on restricted military range

February 21, 2002|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

CHOCOLATE MOUNTAINS — The body of a man who reportedly was scrapping for metal in a restricted military gunnery range was found late Wednesday in this area of east Imperial County.

Authorities said this morning they think the man was killed by live ordnance and that he likely died in recent days.

Based on information from the U.S. Marine Corps, Imperial County Coroner's Office officials speculated this morning the man may have stepped on live ordnance.

An explosion tore off one foot, said county Coroner Investigator Sgt. Rick Macken.

"He may have been out there by himself and was unable to reach medical aid after he sustained his injuries," Macken said.


The man's identity was unavailable this morning, but preliminary information — based on an off-road vehicle found near the body — indicates the vehicle was registered to an individual in Perris in Riverside County.

Macken said authorities were planning to retrieve the body later today, adding that effort had to be coordinated with the military to ensure any planned bombing runs are delayed.

The man's body was spotted by Marines about 9 p.m. Wednesday as they flew over the Naval gunnery range in the Chocolate Mountains near Niland during exercises.

The Marines landed in the area to investigate.

Macken said he is unsure what evidence the Marines have that would indicate the man was in the gunnery range scrapping for metal.

Macken said he expected more information to become available today after the body is recovered.

Military officials from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma were contacted this morning. They said they were working on a press release on the matter, however, that release was unavailable by presstime.

Macken said scrappers go onto the restricted gunnery range looking for the metal found in exploded ordnance.

He also said people in general who go exploring in the area will wander onto the gunnery range despite warning signs.

Macken said the problem is there is live ordnance buried in the area that did not detonate when it was dropped by military aircraft.

Macken said movement in the area can jar and detonate the ordnance.

He added there are people in the Imperial Valley who do attempt to make a living collecting metal from the gunnery range, despite the fact it is an illegal activity.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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