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Mortar round blamed in deadly plant blast near St. Louis

| Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, 8:51 p.m.

GRANITE CITY, Ill. — A mortar round exploded on Monday at a suburban St. Louis metal recycling plant that does business with the military, killing two people.

The explosion at Totall Metal Recycling in Granite City occurred about 6:25 a.m., police said. 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.

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

“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.

He said authorities do not suspect malicious intent and were investigating the explosion as an “industrial accident.” Miller did not comment on whether the facility has received a live mortar before or whether proper procedures were followed in handling it, saying that would be part of the investigation.

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, the secretary of state's spokesman Henry Haupt said. 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.

Robert Nosbisch, resident agent in charge of the ATF in Fairview Heights, said it's not unusual in a situation like this one to get help and other resources from area agencies with expertise in explosives.

A statement released by the company did not provide details about what might have occurred. It said the firm was cooperating with local, state, and federal authorities.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families as we collectively cope with this tragedy,” the statement said.

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