Fort Dix EOD Team Killed March 1983




The New York Times

Published: March 18, 1983


Four members of an Army demolition team were killed instantly and two others injured in an explosion at a range in Fort Dix, N.J., March 17, 1983 officials said.

The explosion occurred at about 1 P.M. in a remote, southeastern section of the base known as Range 39, about midway between the communities of Whiting and Browns Mills.

Officials said that the six men were members of the 60th Explosion Ordnance Detachment and the only ones taking part yesterday in the demolition of munitions.

Area Cordoned Off

”The men were conducting disposal operations at the demolition range and something caused an explosion,” said Lieut. Col. Craig C. MacNab, public-affairs officer at the base, which occupies about 31,000 acres in the South Jersey Pinelands of Burlington and Ocean Counties. ”The area has been cordoned off and is not safe. We do not know as yet what caused the explosion or what they were working on. It could have been a whole variety of things.”

Colonel MacNab said that the men were part of a small unit that detonated explosive devices brought to the base by police units from around the state. He said they also destroyed munitions that were defective.

The colonel said that the area was very dangerous and would have to be cleared of any unexploded materials before an investigation could begin.

The victims were not identified, pending the notification of their families. The two injured soldiers, who were struck by shrapnel, were taken to Walson Army Hospital at the base and listed in ”stable, good condition.”

Officials said that the men were experts. ”The unit works here every day and could have been handling damaged or outdated munitions,” Colonel MacNab said. ”They usually collect enough materials to make it worth their while. They stack it up and blow it up. It could not have been a hand grenade that did not explode when some soldier threw it because those are blown up where they land.”

”We do not expect the investigation to reveal any details of the explosion until tomorrow at the earliest or for at least a couple of days,” he said.

Published: March 20, 1983

Army officials have identified the four soldiers killed in the explosion Thursday on a demolition range at Fort Dix, N.J. The explosion, which occurred as the men were preparing to destroy defective munitions in a remote section of the base, also injured two other soldiers and scattered unexploded detonators from artillery and mortar shells over a wide area.

The dead were identified Friday as First Lieut. Michael Kochon, 26 years old, of Laureldale, Pa.; Staff Sgt. Kevin Schaefer, 32, of Bridgewater, N.J.; Staff Sgt. John Wasko, 31, of Somerset, N.J., and Specialist 5 Lawrence Herrmann, 31, of Fort Dix.

The two injured men were in stable condition yesterday in the intensive-care unit at Walson Army Hospital at the base, suffering from second- and third-degree burns. They were identified as Specialist 5 Wayne Madsen, 32, of Fort Dix and Specialist 4 Robert Crespo of Philadelphia.

All of the men were members of the 60th Explosive Ordnance Detachment, a group of EOD explosives experts stationed at the base.

1st Lt. Michael Kochon

SSGT Lawrence Herrmann

SSGT Kevin Schaefer

SSGT John Wasko