Family Members, Friends Remember Those Killed in Explosion - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Family Members, Friends Remember Those Killed in Explosion

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The Marine Corps is still investigating what caused a mortar to explode, killing seven Marines Monday night.

The military identified the seven victims Wednesday night.

    -- Pfc. Joshua M. Martino, 19, of Clearfield, Pa.

   -- Lance Cpl. David P. Fenn II, 20, of Polk City, Fla.

   -- Lance Cpl. Roger W. Muchnick Jr., 23, of Fairfield, Conn.

   -- Lance Cpl. Joshua C. Taylor, 21, of Marietta, Ohio

   -- Lance Cpl. Mason J. Vanderwork, 21, of Hickory, N.C.

   -- Lance Cpl. William T. Wild IV, 21, of Anne Arundel, Md.

   -- Cpl. Aaron J. Ripperda, 26, of Madison, Ill.

The members of the Second Marine Division were based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

They were doing a nighttime exercise, using mortars.

Rocky McKellip is a retired Marine, living in Hawthorne. He's used this type of weapon before.

"Say this is a mortar tube. Right? It would be at an angle like this and you just take this and the tube is a little bigger around in circumference than this. And you just drop it in and when it hits the bottom, it actually is like a firing pin and it shooots it out."

In Monday night's accident, the mortar blew up inside the tube.

While we still don't know exactly what went wrong -- it's not difficult to see how a malfunction could be so lethal. When working properly, the mortar is shot with an explosive force that sends it more than two miles away.

And when it hits, it bursts into shrapnel that has a kill radius of 16-yards and can injure someone standing as far away as 40-yards from the impact.

The military has suspended the use of these mortars until an investigation clears them as safe.

Hawthorne residents are putting on a spaghetti feed tonight at The Refinery Restaurant to help raise money for the families of the victims. They plan to send flowers to the funerals of those killed - as a show of respect from the people of Hawthorne.

Also - the local VFW raised $800 by selling artificial budding poppies at a memorial service last night.

The United States Marine Corps reported Wednesday morning that another injured Marine has been reported bringing the total injured to eight. Renown Regional Medical Center says six of the patients it received are still hospitalized; three are in serious condition and three are in fair condition.

A general family assistance center phone line, 775-982-6060, has been activated.

Here are profiles of the victims:


Marine Lance Cpl. Taylor, who worked with mortars and served tours in Afghanistan and Kuwait, had dreamed being in the Corps since watching the History Channel as a boy. He joined right after graduating from a high school in Marietta, Ohio, in 2010.

Taylor's grandfather, Larry Stephens, said Taylor was engaged to be married, with a wedding planned for May.

His fiancee's father called him an exceptional person.

"You don't meet many young men like him today," Keith Malone told The Marietta Times. "He was respectful to everyone, very humble, just happy, happy all the time."

Taylor is also survived by three sisters and a brother.


Muchnick, who'd been in the Marines for about three years, had served in Afghanistan and was considering returning to college after his enlistment was up. He played high school lacrosse and football in Westport, Conn., and later played lacrosse at Eastern Connecticut State University, where he studied business.

In a biography on the university's website, Muchnick said the one thing he would like to do before he died was "live," and his most embarrassing moment was getting caught lip-synching in a school talent show.

"He was at the top of his game when this happened," said his grandfather, Jerome Muchnick. "You can't imagine losing a very handsome, 23-year-old grandson who was vital and loving."


Pfc. Martino, who hailed from Dubois, Pa., and was preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan, aspired to be a Marine since boyhood.

"Since he was probably 8 years old he wanted to be a Marine," said his mother, Karen Perry. "That's all he wanted to do."

Martino was a talkative former high school athlete and accomplished hunter who hoped to marry his fiancee later this year, Perry said.

His mother said she first heard a radio news report about the Monday accident, then three Marines arrived at her workplace to say her son was among the seven dead.


Ripperda was a football player while he attended high school in Highland, Ill., near St. Louis. He was respectful and hardworking, according to Highland High School Assistant Principal Karen Gauen, and "definitely had the discipline for the military."

Ripperda had dreams of becoming a professional chef. His aunt, Beverly Lesicko, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he joined the Marines for a chance to explore the world. He was scheduled to come home in May.


Lance Cpl. Wild joined the Marines shortly after graduating in 2010 from Severna Park High School near Annapolis, Md. His mother, Elizabeth Wild, said he was in a weapons platoon that was scheduled to deploy in November to Afghanistan. He already had been deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Kuwait.

Wild said her son always wanted to go into the military, like his father, who is a command chief in the Air Force Reserve at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.


Lance Cpl. Fenn, who was from Polk City, Fla., enlisted with the Marine Corps in June 2010. He was promoted to his current rank nine months later. Fenn, who served as a mortarman, received numerous accolades including a Combat Action Ribbon and National Defense Service Medal. He was last deployed in 2011 to Afghanistan.


Lance Cpl. Vanderwork, who was last deployed in 2011 to serve in the war in Afghanistan, was a native of Hickory, N.C. Vanderwork joined the Marines in June 2010 and was promoted to his current rank by August 2011. He received several awards including the National Defense Service Medal.

Written by Paul Nelson

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