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Three Marine leaders relieved of duties after accident that killed Severna Park grad

Investigators blame human error in mortar explosion that killed William Taylor Wild IV, six others

By Matthew Hay Brown, The Baltimore Sun

6:36 PM EDT, May 29, 2013

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Three Marine leaders have been relieved of their duties following the March training accident that killed a 21-year-old graduate of Severna Park High School and six other Marines, officials said Wednesday.

Lance Cpl. William Taylor Wild IV of Severna Park and six other members of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment were killed March 18 when a 60mm mortar round exploded during a live-fire night attack at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada.

Investigators have blamed the explosion on human error, said a 2nd Marine Division spokesman, 1st Lt. Peter Koerner.

Investigators found that the Marines using one of the mortars did not follow correct procedures, Koerner said, leading to the detonation of the high-explosive mortar round.

Investigators also found that the mortar section had not conducted appropriate training leading up to the live-fire event, Koerner said.

Eight members of the battalion — seven Marines and a Navy corpsman — were injured in the explosion.

Brig. Gen. James Lukeman, the commander of the 2nd Marine Division, relieved Lt. Col. Andrew McNulty, the battalion's commanding officer, on May 8, Koerner said.

Lt. Col. Corey Collier assumed command of the battalion May 23.

Capt. Kelby Breivogel, a company commander, and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Douglas Derring, the battalion's Marine infantry weapons officer, were also relieved of their duties.

No service members have been charged with a crime or violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Koerner said, and no charges are anticipated.

Investigators found that the mortar system at Hawthorne functioned properly and found no reason to question the safety of the system when it is used as intended by trained Marines, Koerner said.

The Marines stopped using 60mm shells after the incident. Koerner said the ban was lifted last week.

Wild, who used the name Taylor, was the oldest of three children of Anne Arundel Police Cpl. William Taylor Wild III, a 28-year Air Force reservist, and Elizabeth "Betz" Wild, a teacher and athletic director at St. Martin's-in-the-Field Episcopal School in Severna Park.

He was a pitcher on the 2009 state champion Severna Park Falcons baseball team. His bedroom was adorned with posters of Taylor Swift, the Duke Blue Devils and the Marines.

"He was a great kid," his father said in March. "What can I say?"

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