Police: Mortar round caused deadly plant blast

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 25, 2014 at 5:08 pm •  Published: August 25, 2014
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GRANITE CITY, Ill. (AP) — Investigators are trying to determine what went wrong at a suburban St. Louis metal recycling plant where a mortar round exploded Monday, killing two people.

The explosion at Totall Metal Recycling in Granite City occurred about 6:25 a.m., police said. Bomb technicians were still trying to secure the scene Monday afternoon, sweeping the site for other possible explosives.

The victims, whom responders could not initially get to because of the fear of further explosions, were not immediately identified. A third person was injured and taken to a St. Louis hospital, police said, but a condition was not available.

Totall Metal Recycling, which employs about 160 people, according to its website, does business with the military and it's not unusual for it to have items such as "military engines and ammunition casings," police chief Rich Miller said.

"This corporation recycles everything you can think of, from plastics to cardboard to metals, and some of their contracts involve getting materials from the military," Miller said at a briefing for reporters near the plant Monday afternoon.

He said authorities do not suspect any malicious intent and were investigating the explosion as an "industrial accident." Miller did not comment on whether the facility has ever received a live mortar before or whether proper procedures were followed in handling it, saying that would be part of the investigation. He also said investigators are looking at what was happening when it exploded.

The Illinois secretary of state's bomb squad was dispatched to the scene to support an explosive ordnance disposal unit from Scott Air Force Base, secretary of state's spokesman Henry Haupt said. Their job was to ensure "there are no other explosive or dangerous devices and, if there are, to render them safe," he said.

Also on the scene were agents from the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and St. Louis city and county police agencies, Miller said.

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