Camp Stephenson explosion: 1 month later, probe still ongoing

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Shaqueel DeHarte, Tooney Peneux and Kevon Nicholson who were killed during the explosion at Camp Stephenson

Officials of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) have no new information in relation to the explosion that left three soldiers dead and two injured at Base Camp Stephenson, Timehri, East Bank Demerara (EBD), on April 30 last.

Just after the tragic incident, President David Granger had ordered a Board of Inquiry (BoI) into the circumstances surrounding the incident but it has been one month since and GDF is yet to know the cause of the explosion.

When Inews contacted the Staff Officer One General Five (ag), Major Greasels Hinckson, she related that she is unable to comment on the issues since investigations are still ongoing.

On April 30, an explosion at the at GDF’s armoury at Camp Stephenson, Timehri, EBD, killed Lance Corporal Kevon Nicholson, 23, of Levi Dam, Angoy’s Avenue, New Amsterdam; Lance Corporal Tooney Peneux, 28, of Orealla Village, Corentyne River, and Private Shaqueel DeHarte, 20, of Paradise Village, West Coast Berbice.

Two others – Sergeant Quincy Threlfall, 43, and Lance Corporal Paul Peters, 29, were injured during the incident. Lance Corporal Peters was treated at Base Camp Stephenson, while Sergeant Threlfall was hospitalised at the Georgetown Hospital (GPHC) but was subsequently discharged.

The GDF reported that the soldiers were involved in the preparation of pyrotechnics for demolition when the incident occurred.

On the other hand, Inews had reported that on the day when the soldiers were killed, they were destroying pyrotechnics (fireworks), but reportedly used the wrong technique.

This was confirmed by multiple sources at Camp Stephenson days after the incident.

The soldiers were tasked with destroying the explosives two to three days prior to the explosion. They were reportedly instructed to soak the defective fireworks in a drum of water after which they were to use a hammer to crack them open. The Sulphur was removed and placed in a secure container.

On the morning of the explosion, the ranks were still trying to crack open the defective fireworks, one source explained.

It is believed that one of the fireworks was not properly soaked in water, and as one of the ranks hammered away, it ignited, hence the explosion.

This was the second fatal explosion in the GDF for the year. On February 22 last, members of the GDF’s Artillery Unit were offloading pyrotechnics from a truck to a pontoon at the GDF Coast Guard base at Ruimveldt when they exploded. This resulted in the death of Seon Rose, and several others being seriously injured.

Corporal Rose along with several other ranks of the 21 Artillery Company were preparing for Guyana’s 50th Republic Anniversary fireworks display when the incident occurred. Corporal Rose was badly burnt and died the following day at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) where he was receiving treatment.

A probe into the first explosion is still ongoing, and it is still unclear how long the Guyana Defence Force will take to complete both investigations.