After a 48kg grenade exploded in the military camp at Waldhof on Thursday, two non-commissioned officers of the Luxembourg army lost their lives. Another is still in critical condition, but is showing strong signs of recovery following extensive surgery.
Defense Minister François Bausch announced on Friday morning that the wounded soldier had been operated on throughout the night and that his condition had stabilised.
The government held a moment of silence on Friday morning at the Governing Council in memory of the two victims. Next week, there will be a commemoration ceremony at the military camp and the two victims will subsequently be buried in their respective local communities following the traditions of military funerals.
Later on, commemorative plaques with their names will be put up at the military camp in order to thank them for their service.
The Grand Duke and Duchess have also shown their shock at what has happened on Thursday. After having received a detailed briefing from the Minister of Defence François Bausch and General Alain Duschène, the couple visited one of the surviving victims in hospital.
Call for donations
Some people have already started raising money for the victims' families. Their goal is to raise 100.000 euros. If you're interested in donating money, you can do so here.
Nation in shock
On Thursday morning, an ordnance exploded at the army's munitions depot in Waldhof (Waldhaff).
A press conference in was held at 4.30pm. Francois Bausch began the press conference by expressing his condolences to the family and friends of the deceased sergeants, as well as those of the injured sergeants, all of whom are going through a difficult time. He confirmed that one of the injured sergeants remains critically injured, but the other is not in a life-threatening state and is conscious.
Bausch was joined at the press conference by the Attorney General, Georges Oswald, and the Chief of Staff of the Army, Alain Duchène. Oswald and Duchène confirmed that the deceased sergeants were 47 and 39 years old and bomb disposal experts. The sergeants were in the process of preparing a 48 kilogram bomb from WWII for disposal. The bomb did not have a detonator, was classed as safe, and due to be taken to Belgium to be neutralised.
The two injured sergeants, aged 44 and 41, came to the depot to collect equipment and were not involved in the relocation preparation. There were no other individuals in the building other than the four implicated in the explosion. Whilst others do work at the weapons depot, first established in 1948, no other army personnel were present in the building.
The three officials were unable to answer all questions at the conference due to the ongoing investigation. The security perimeter remains in place and an investigators talked to the conscious sergeant.
The police, bomb disposal experts, forensic officers, and a legal doctor were sent to the scene following the initial reports. A security perimeter was set up for them to be able to work efficiently.
At midday, an investigating judge arrived at the scene in order to begin an autopsy and to name foreign experts who would help the investigation in ascertaining the cause of the explosion.
Duchène also confirmed that one of the sergeants had a dog present at the time, but he only knew that a vet had been called to the site and had taken the dog away for further treatment.
Bausch thanked the press for their understanding that the officials cannot provide answers to all the questions and explained that the next step will be to meet with the parliamentary commission on defence on Friday morning. As for army officials, they will monitor the explosion risks of other weapons as a consequence of the tragedy. Bausch confirmed that a remembrance ceremony will be held for the deceased.
The Grand Duke and Duchess have also expressed their condolences to the victims' families.
Earlier official communique
Communiqué of the Luxembourg public prosecutor's office following an explosion at the military camp in Waldhof (14.02.2019)
Around 10:30 this morning an explosion took place in a hangar of the military camp at Waldhof. At that moment four people were inside the hangar and were handling an artillery shell. Following the explosion, two people died. Two other people had to be hospitalized. One of them is in critical condition.
Two Luxembourg prosecutors are on hand to conduct the investigation.
According to eyewitnesses, the explosion was heard kilometres away. The head of the army and Minister of Defence Francois Bausch were on their way to a meeting in Belgium at the time of the explosion. The meeting was to visit the pilots of Luxembourg's military aircraft, due to be delivered in 2020. The meeting was cancelled once the explosion occurred.
Earlier incident in 2012
This is not the first fatal incident to occur at the depot. On 6 November 2012, a soldier on patrol was hit by a bullet in the stomach and died from his wounds.
The man had been shot as his colleague had not adequately secured his gun.
In 2015, the colleague was sentenced to two years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.