Camp Stephenson explosion: Dead soldiers were allegedly destroying defective fireworks

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The three ranks of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) who were killed during an explosion at Camp Stephenson on Thursday last were in the process of destroying pyrotechnics (fireworks), but reportedly used the wrong technique.

This was confirmed by multiple sources at Camp Stephenson, Timehri, East Bank Demerara (EBD).

Inews understands that several 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.

After that was done, the sulphur was to be removed and placed in a secured container. However, on the morning of the explosion, a group of soldiers had collected the necessary weapons needed from the armoury to perform a gun-salute exercise for a fallen colleague.

Moments after leaving the armoury, the explosion occurred. “When we left the gun-room, some ranks were still trying to crack open the defective fireworks,” one source told this publication.

The defective fireworks were those that were recovered from the explosion at the Coast Guard base at Ruimveldt, Georgetown in February that had left one soldier dead and several injured.

The pyrotechnics were sent to Timehri following an investigation into that explosion. 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.

The ranks who died as a result of the explosion were 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.

Sergeant Threlfall was admitted a patient at the Georgetown Public Hospital while Lance Corporal Peters was treated at Base Camp Stephenson.

This was the second fatal explosion in the GDF for the year. In February, 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.

In light of this second incident, President David Granger has ordered a Board of Inquiry (BoI) into the circumstances surrounding the incident at Camp Stephenson. Attempts to get a comment from the GDF on the findings of its preliminary investigation proved futile.