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Three U.S. Soldiers Killed, At Least 12 Injured in Explosion

June 29, 1987

HOHENFELS, West Germany (AP) _ An 18-member team of U.S. military experts arrived in West Germany today to investigate an explosion the Army said killed three American soldiers and injured 12 others.

The investigators from the Army Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., were examining evidence at the site of Sunday’s explosion in Hohenfels, said Maj. Kim Hunt, a spokeswoman for the Army’s 5th Corps in Frankfurt.

The Army said the cause of the blast was not known, but that it occurred during a training exercise at the Army’s largest maneuver area in West Germany. The site is 35 miles southeast of Nuremberg.

The Army today identified the three soldiers killed as Sgt. Joseph M. Renaldi, 25, of Springdale, Pa.; Spec. 4 Keith Lavoie, 21, of Burton, Mich.; and Staff Sgt. Joseph L. Dewease, 27, of Khewsville, Md.

U.S. military authorities said 12 soldiers were hospitalized. West German police said up to 30 servicemen were injured, some seriously, in the explosion.

The unofficial military newspaper Stars and Stripes today quoted 5th Corps spokesman Lt. Col. Jake Dye as saying ″there may have been others injured who did not require hospitalization.″

Some of the hospitalized soldiers remained in ″critical but stable″ condition today, said Renate Stieber, a spokeswoman for the 58th Combat Engineer Company in Fulda.

She said several thousand soldiers have been conducting exercises in Hohenfels since June 17. The training is scheduled to end July 6 and there were no plans to call off the exercises because of the explosion, she added.

The blast occurred when a cratering charge, used to blow holes in the ground, detonated during routine demolition training Sunday morning, according to a statement issued by the Army’s 5th Corps headquarters in Frankfurt.

The Armed Forces Network radio station said the charge contains 15 pounds of dynamite. But today military officials said it was more correct to call it ″explosives,″ instead of dynamite.

Bavarian state police sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the explosion was possibly caused by static electricity. A 5th Corps spokesman in Frankfurt said he could not confirm the report.

The soldiers were members of the 58th Combat Engineer Company, part of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment headquartered in Fulda.

The accident was the most serious involving the U.S. military in West Germany since an unarmed Pershing 2 missile caught fire Jan. 11, 1985, killing three soldiers and injuring 16.

The Army statement said two soldiers were pronounced dead upon arrival Sunday and another died shortly after being admitted to a hospital.

″The accident happened on a training range specifically designated for the type of training that was being conducted. The training was being conducted by combat engineers who are skilled in this type of demolition training,″ the Army statement said.

The Army said the hospitalized soldiers suffered a variety of injuries.

A spokesman for Erlangen’s University Hospital, near Nuremberg, said four American soldiers were admitted to the hospital with ″very grave injuries.″

He said they were not in ″acute life-threatening condition at the moment″ but remained in intensive care. He said some of the soldiers lost limbs in the accident and some suffered serious eye injuries. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

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