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Blasts at N.H. ammunition plant kill 2; explosions persist 2 hours

By Lisa Rathke
Associated Press / May 15, 2010

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COLEBROOK, N.H. — Multiple explosions at a gun and ammunition manufacturing plant in northern New Hampshire killed two people yesterday, shook buildings blocks away, filled the sky with black smoke, and forced the evacuation of dozens of homes.

State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan confirmed the deaths at the MDM Muzzleloader building in Colebrook. He said the two victims, along with another person who received minor injuries, were the only people in the building at the time.

The blasts started just after 1 p.m., said Mia West, public information officer in Colebrook. Firefighters initially were unable to get close enough to fight the blaze because ammunition was still going off more than two hours later, she said.

At Colebrook Elementary School, paraprofessional Saralyn Boutin thought she heard thunder, but after the second boom, “I was hanging onto the desk.’’

Boutin, 28, said some students in the eighth-grade classroom were crying. Hours later, she was heading to her mother’s house to spend the night because her own street was blocked off. Some of her neighbors’ homes had windows blown out, she said.

Degnan said the fire continued to burn more than four hours after the explosion was reported, and that it was too soon to determine the cause.

“We’re just getting into the investigation and trying to determine the details,’’ he said.

About 40 homes were evacuated, though some residents were allowed to return late yesterday evening. Some residents heard the explosion 1 1/2 miles away, West said. Displaced residents were offered accommodations in nearby Dixville Notch.

Several communities in New Hampshire and Vermont sent fire crews.

John Gannon, 47, of Cambridge, was visiting a friend when the apartment shook from yesterday’s blast. “It felt like a truck blew up outside,’’ he said, adding that he was sorry to hear that two people were killed.

Colebrook is about 10 miles from the Canadian border.

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