Documents Show Possible Violations at New Hampshire Gun Plant

June 7, 2010

Court documents regarding a deadly explosion at a New Hampshire gun and ammunition plant indicate evidence of possible violations concerning the storage, manufacturing and handling of explosive materials.

The Caledonian-Record reports the state fire marshal’s office received two search warrants regarding the MDM Muzzleloader plant in Colebrook. Two men died and a third was injured May 14.

According to the warrants, an interview with an electrician showed a potential wiring issue or electrical hazard in one of the main production machines before the explosion, which killed Jesse Kennett, 49, of Stratford, and Donald Kendall, 56, of Colebrook.

The documents also say the injured worker, David Oldham of Columbia, 50, told investigators a piece of equipment suspected to be the origin of the blast was repaired a day before the explosion. The equipment was a tub grinder and mixer used to mix and grind chemicals to make a black powder substitute used for muzzleloaders.

In the documents, Christopher Wyman of the state fire marshal’s office said he was told firefighters removed two explosive magazines, one of which was empty and one of which contained powder, from the rear of the building as they were fighting the fire.

“I could observe numerous potential sources of ignition in close proximity to the magazine (that) included open/exposed electrical distribution panels, grinding wheels, Butane torches, non-compliant electrical wiring, outlets and light fixtures, drill presses, circular saws and other tools and equipment,” Wyman said in the documents.

The documents said the company was authorized to store up to 1,000 pounds of smokeless powder in an indoor low-explosive storage magazine inside the building.

Besides fire investigators, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the company for possible work and safety violations.

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