July 21, 1996 in Nation/World

U.S. Jet Nearly Kos U.S. Base Personnel Scramble After Fa-18 Accidentally Drops A Bomb

Terrence Petty Associated Press

A U.S. fighter jet accidentally dropped a 500-pound bomb near a U.S. military base in northern Bosnia on Saturday, sending soldiers scrambling to battle tanks and bunkers.

There were no injuries from the wayward bomb, which blasted dirt and metal into the air and put Camp McGovern on high alert for about an hour.

“Our fighting positions received a good spray of shrapnel,” base commander Lt. Col. Tony Cucolo said.

The bomb fell from an FA-18 jet during a routine training exercise southwest of Brcko, 100 miles north of Sarajevo, NATO spokesman Lt. Col. Max Marriner said.

The jet - also known as a Hornet - is based on the USS Enterprise in the Adriatic. About 600 people were on the base, home to 882 U.S. military personnel attached to a cavalry squadron.

The United States has about 16,000 soldiers in the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. None of them have come under direct attack in the country, although Saturday’s accident was close enough for some.

“We thought mortar rounds were coming in,” said Sgt. Coy Burney, 27, of Gulfport, Miss., who had been setting up a video on the television set in his tent when the deafening boom sounded.

“Scared me pretty bad,” chimed in Spc. Michael Moore, 26, of Lexington, Va.

The bomb exploded at the edge of Camp McGovern, just inside Muslim-Croat federation territory, Marriner said.

The pilot was making a training run over a former front line far from civilians, with a tractor as his pretend target, the U.S. military said.

An investigation is already under way, said Col. Greg Fontenot, commander of the U.S. 1st Brigade.

“There are a number of fail-safes. We don’t know what went wrong,” Fontenot said, later adding, “I would guess there’s no one more upset than the pilot.”

Still, “he came awfully close to the place he was aiming for,” Fontenot noted.

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