Hot gun barrel ignites residue gunpowder that spilled inside the tank after projectile ruptures, causing explosion • Three soldiers seriously wounded, one moderately, airlifted to nearby hospital • All four in stable condition • IDF investigating.
Lilach Shoval and Daniel Siryoti
Injured soldiers arriving at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Tuesday
Photo credit: Michel Dot Com
Four Israel Defense Forces soldiers were injured Tuesday, three seriously and one moderately, after an explosion occurred inside their tank during a routine training exercise on the Golan Heights. The military has launched an investigation into the accident.
The soldiers received initial treatment at the scene and were airlifted to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. The three servicemen who sustained serious injuries were admitted to the intensive care unit, while the fourth soldier was admitted to the hospital's plastic surgery department. All four are said to be out of danger and in stable condition.
Initial details suggest that during the exercise, held in a designated military training area near Moshav Yonatan on the Golan Heights, soldiers from the 9th Battalion of the Armored Corps' 401st Brigade attempted to fire a tank shell, but the projectile jammed in the tank's cannon.
As the soldiers were trying to extract the shell, its casing ruptured, spilling gunpowder inside the tank's interior. The crew cleaned up the broken shell and gunpowder, placing the pieces in a designated crate in the tank.
Some 15 minutes later, and after firing one of the tank's guns, the crew changed the gun barrel, placing the used, hot barrel where the gunpowder had previously spilled. The heat from the barrel apparently ignited some residue gunpowder and set off an explosion large enough to trigger the tank's automatic fire extinguishing system.
While the fire was extinguished immediately, the tank's crew suffered blast, fire and smoke inhalation injuries.
"All four soldiers are suffering from burns and internal injuries typical of a blast," Rambam Director-General Professor Rafael Beyar told reporters Tuesday night.
An Armored Corps official said that the military has no set protocols as to where gun barrels are to be placed inside a tank after their use, so it is still unclear whether there was any kind of negligence by the soldiers.
He added that the shell in question -- an American-made hollow projectile -- is no stranger to similar misfires.
The Armored Corps has suspended all training exercises following the accident, but resumed them after the initial inquiry into the event.
Also on Tuesday, an IDF soldier in the Givati Brigade suffered mild injuries after being hit by a civilian car.
The incident took place during a break in a Givati exercise. The military's inquiry into the matter revealed that the soldier had apparently fallen asleep too close to the road. He sustained a mild injury to his leg and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
The commanders on the ground were instructed to reiterate the IDF's safety protocols.