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Marines demoted after fatal accident

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Three Marine Corps officers at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune have been relieved of their command nearly two months after a training accident that killed seven Marines in Nevada.

A battalion commander, a company commander, and an infantry weapons officer have been relieved after a mortar tube exploded during an exercise March 18 at Hawthorne Army Depot, the Marines said Wednesday. Seven Marines and a sailor were wounded.

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The officers relieved were Lieutenant Colonel Andrew McNulty, Captain Kelby Breivogel, and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Douglas Derring. The decision was made by Brigadier General James Lukeman, the Second Marine Division commander.

‘‘Specifically for Lieutenant Colonel McNulty, he was relieved because of a loss of confidence in his ability to continue commanding the battalion,’’ Lieutenant Peter Koerner, a spokesman for the Second Marine Division, said Thursday.

He did not have details on why the other two were relieved, but said all three remain active duty Marines. It was not immediately known what their new assignments would be.

No one has been charged with any sort of crime because of the training accident, and no charges are expected, Koerner said.

Asked if there might be other sanctions, such as letters of reprimand for the three officers, Koerner said: ‘‘There could be. But generally that is administrative, and we don’t discuss that.’’

The accident prompted the Pentagon to suspend use of 60mm mortars — like those being used during the training exercise — until the investigation was done. Troops in Afghanistan were exempted from the suspension.

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