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Hornady Primer Facility Explosion Claims The Life Of One Worker

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On Friday, Oct. 13, an explosion at the chemical compounding building at a Hornady Manufacturing facility west of Grand Island, Neb., claimed the life of one worker. A nearby hospital treated two others for non-life-threatening injuries—concussion symptoms and smoke and fume inhalation.

A statement issued by Steve and Jason Hornady—president and vice-president of the company, respectively—said, “We are devastated for our employee, their family and loved ones, as well as the entire Hornady team. We are working with all agencies to investigate the cause. This production incident was isolated to our primer facility and did not impact any of the manufacturing facilities. We appreciate the outreach we have received while we grieve the loss of one of our own.”

Fire departments from four communities responded to the explosion. On Monday, Oct. 16, the Nebraska State Fire Marshal Agency announced the incident was an accident that occurred while mixing chemicals.

Hornady’s not the first to suffer a primer-related tragedy. In 2017, an explosion at the U.S. military’s Lake City ammunition plant claimed another life. Fatal incidents also occurred there in 1981, 1990, 1991 and 2011. A 2015 explosion at a Sellier & Bellot plant in the Czech Republic killed three workers, and earlier this year, a truck carrying primers out of an Illinois factory took the life of its driver.

Statistics compiled by the U.S. government indicate ammunition operations stateside are safer than most other combustible-material industries. Despite that fact, manufacturers go out of their way to establish primer mixing operations in areas that minimize public exposure.

Hornady’s site, for example, is located on the old Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant, originally built for munitions production during World War II. It sat largely idled outside Grand Island after the Vietnam War ended. Then, in 2010, Hornady purchased 320 acres of the facility and began construction of a new 150,000-sq.-ft. facility. Production began there—along with some shipping operations—soon after construction was complete.

The family-owned business was founded in 1949 and is a recognized community leader in Grand Island, the state of Nebraska and beyond. Its donations to aid cancer research and victims of the illness in the region, for example, now comes to more than $1 million.

Article by GUY J. SAGI


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