Loaded Shell Cause of Fatal Blast

Wednesday, June 17, 2015 @ 12:06 PM gHale

An explosive device in a pile of empty military shell casings was the cause of an explosion early Monday morning at USA Metal Recycling in Neosho, MO, that killed one person and injured another.

Killed in the blast was Cody D. Brisco, 20, of Granby. Tyler Spencer, 23, of Granby, suffered an injury in the explosion. Emergency workers rushed him to an area hospital with moderate injuries. He was in stable condition Monday afternoon, according to a release from the city.

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Fire Chief Mike Eads said Neosho police and firefighters responded at 3:30 a.m. to a report of an explosion with injuries.

Brisco and Spencer, both employees of USA Metal Recycling, “were handling empty aluminum shell casings when they discovered what turned out to be an explosive device, though they were not aware of its nature. They were examining the device when it detonated,” said a release from the city.

The state fire marshal’s office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Department of Defense were investigating the incident. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating because the incident falls under the category of a workplace accident, according to the city.

City spokesman Wes Franklin said OSHA will take the lead on the investigation.

Eads said there were only two employees in the building at the time of the explosion. There was no fire. The building sustained minimal damage.

Newton County Coroner Mark Bridges, who responded to the scene, said he didn’t see anything noticeable or remarkable in terms of damage and that he suspected, based on the scene, that the victim’s body took the force of the explosion.

An initial assessment indicates Brisco died of traumatic injuries from shrapnel, Bridges said.

“In 20 years, I’ve never handled anything like this before,” he said.

Eads said was not aware the company handled items such as empty shell casings. The explosive device should not have been in the shell casings being recycled. Eads said he just learned the company had recently started operating 24 hours a day.

“As far as how or why they got it (the explosive device), I can’t say but from what I was told all they handle is aluminum pieces,” Eads said.

Earlier this month, a fire at a USA Metal Recycling location in Joplin caused an estimated $500,000 in damage.

Seth Bundy, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety, said the state fire marshal’s office is assisting with investigations of the Neosho explosion and the Joplin fire. He said there is no reason to believe there is any relatonship between the two incidents, though the cause of the Joplin fire is still under investigation.

USA Metal Recycling has locations in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, according to the company’s website.