Marine's Wife Killed In Calif. Propane Explosion

Published February 4, 2012 8:54PM (EST)

COLEVILLE, Calif. (AP) — The person killed in a propane gas explosion outside a remote Northern California training base was the wife of a U.S. Marine, and the two people seriously injured were a Navy corpsman and his wife, military officials said on Saturday.

The officials did not release the victims' names, saying they were still in the process of contacting next of kin.

The explosion around 9 p.m. Friday occurred at a housing unit in the Mono County town of Coleville for the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, where Marines train for mountain operations.

It was related to the housing area's propane distribution system, and was not associated with activities at the Marine base, which is about 30 miles away, according to Marine spokesman Capt. Nicholas Mannweiler.

Mannweiler said seven residences were damaged and 38 families were evacuated after utilities serving their homes were shut off for safety reasons. They are staying with friends or at other homes in the off-base unit, made up of duplexes and stand-alone residences.

The families had not been cleared to return to their homes as of Saturday morning.

"We have to inspect everything to make sure we're not jeopardizing our families," he said.

The two people who were injured suffered third-degree burns and shock and were flown to hospitals — one to Renown medical center in Reno, Nev., and the other to the University of California, Davis Medical Center — in serious condition, Mannweiler said. He did not have an update on their conditions.

A spokesman for Renown referred calls to military officials. UC Davis asked for the patient's name.

Other people suffered superficial cuts and bruises in the explosion, which is being investigated with help from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Located at an altitude of about 9,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada mountains near the Nevada border, the Mountain Warfare Training Center is one of the Marine's most remote posts.

The base, which has about 160 Marines and 300 support staff, conducts unit and individual training for action in mountainous, high altitude and cold weather areas.

"As Marines, we tend to take pretty good pride in being in shape," Mannweiler said. "But guys come out to (this base) to see what they are made of."

Many service members on the base have seen combat action, said Rodney Allen, the training center's deputy director.

He said families are coming together to help those who were affected.

"Military families are resilient," he said.

By Salon Staff

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