Off the mark | AspenTimes.com

Off the mark

Steve Benson

Talk about missing your mark.Last week, authorities conducting control work in Utah’s Provo Canyon near Sundance overshot their target by three miles and nearly annihilated a home.The shell, fired from a 105-mm howitzer – a World War II and Korean War-era military cannon – cleared the entire Mount Timpanogos Wilderness area and landed in the back yard of a Pleasant Grove residence.According to the Deseret News, the shell left a crater the size of a small swimming pool and sent shrapnel and debris flying in all directions. The home, which belonged to Scott and Lori Connors, is now apparently filled with holes and glass. Windows were shattered and their backyard shed was almost destroyed. Their 3-year-old son was lying on the living room floor when shrapnel blew through the walls. Two other homes and a car parked across the street were also damaged. Amazingly, nobody was injured or killed.”A 105-mm howitzer would blow up a tank,” said Doug Driskell, an Aspen Mountain avalanche technician.None of Aspen’s four ski hills uses howitzers. Highlands patrol uses an Avalauncher, which is not nearly as forceful or destructive as a howitzer, to assist with control work in the bowl.Apparently, the Utah Department of Transportation is responsible for the mistake, which occurred in the midst of a heavy snowstorm.Driskell, who said he’s familiar with howitzer use in avalanche control work but is by no means an expert, said the weapons have specific settings so they can be fired blindly in storms and darkness.The UDOT, which also conducts control work in the American Fork, Big and Little Cottonwood canyons, claims the prepackaged shell contained too much gun powder, leading to the overshoot.The incident is under investigation.


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