The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are investigating a deadly blast that occurred at an ammunition plant in Tennessee in April of 2014. The explosion, which struck the McEwen based Rio Ammunition plant, killed one man and critically injured another. A spokesperson for the parent company of Rio Ammunition, Maxam, indicated that the explosion occurred as the company was performing shotgun cartridge loading operations. It was not immediately clear exactly what set off the explosion.
A special investigative team of the ATF will be handling the investigation into the blast. According to ATF spokesman Michael Knight, the area around the plant was cleared of remaining live ammunition and subsequently heavy equipment was brought to the scene in order to stabilize the damaged structure that housed the ammunition manufacturing operations.
The spokesman also said that companies that manufacture shotgun cartridges must maintain a federal license, and that Rio Ammunition was in compliance with the requirement, indicating that a preliminary review had not revealed that the company has ever been in violation.
The powerful explosion occurred with approximately 20 employees in the building. Two of the walls were reportedly blown away, and a sizable section of the building’s roof was also damaged. The explosion caused numerous fires in the area, requiring firefighters from Humphreys and Hickman counties to respond and tame the blazes, which were all extinguished within just hours of the blast.
The ATF is responsible for enforcing the nation’s laws regulating firearms, ammunition, and explosives. The bureau has recently come under criticism as a result of its “Fast and Furious” program in which it facilitated the sale of over 2,500 firearms to arms traffickers who would take them to Mexico. The program, which was reportedly done without the knowledge of Mexican officials, was ostensibly conducted in order to help the ATF track Mexican drug cartels. But the arms were later implicated in the deaths of numerous people, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent Brian Terry.