Serbia Probes Fatal Test Range Blast

As Serbia begins investigating a blast of unexploded ordnance that killed two cadets, some experts call for top military officials to step down.Serbia has formed a commission to investigate the explosion of a “a leftover 33mm grenade” that killed two students in the fourth year of the Military Academy and wounded seven others on a drill near the central town of Cuprija on Monday.The wounded men are not in critical condition. Four were transported by helicopter from the hospital in Cuprija, where they received initial treatment after the accident, to the Military Medical Academy in Belgrade, where President Tomislav Nikolic and Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac visited them.

Sutanovac said an investigation would reveal the circumstances of the accident and how it was possible that unexploded ordnance was activated there, since it occurred in a zone where target practice with live ammunition is not envisaged.

He has suspended all officers in the chain of command who participated in the preparation of the exercise until the completion of the investigation.

Milivoje Pajovic, the chief of the Defence Ministry’s public relations bureau, said the accident happened when the students found the unexploded ordnance, although no live ammunition was used during their training.

“The projectile was probably left behind after previous target practice and, considering that there was rust on it, that was probably long ago. But this is up to the investigation to find out,” he said.

Military expert Ljubodrag Stojadinovic said the whole system of training and safety has a number of accumulated errors and omissions that have led to the latest accident.

“There has been a series of systemic failures for which responsibility falls on the people in charge of security at the training ground, from the responsible officers at the military academy to the chief of staff and Minister of Defence,” he said.

“In these situations, the minister should resign, and the President should replace the army military chief,” he added.

The Serbian Army has seen several such accidents in recent years in which soldiers lost lives. In 2008, a military pilot was killed while preparing for an air show.

The following year, a pilot and a soldier lost their lives at a military airport after an aircraft crashed. In 2011, a military parachutist died during training.

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