American dies, four injured in blast at Bulgaria’s VMZ Sopot ordnance plant

A person reported to be a US citizen died and four others, reportedly including an American and a Canadian, were injured – the American critically – in a grenade launcher accident at the VMZ Sopot ordnance plant near the village of Anevo in Bulgaria on June 6.

An American citizen, aged 40, was in critical condition in Sv Georgi University Hospital in the city of Plovdiv, the hospital said.

Three other people, two Bulgarians and a Canadian, all less seriously injured, were also being treated at the hospital.

One of the Bulgarians injured, Ivan Tankov, employed as a driver, told local television station bTV that he had seen what happened because at the time of the explosion he had been standing with his back to proceedings.

Tankov, who said he was standing about seven to eight metres from the blast, had shrapnel injuries in his legs. Doctors said that his life was not in danger.

Plovdiv prosecutors and members of the labour inspectorate were at the scene of the explosion.

Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov sent a mobile team of the National Investigative Service to the site.

Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Roumyana Buchvarova was at the scene.

Bulgaria’s Economy Ministry said in a June 6 statement that the incident happened during an experimental test firing by a private company, All Guns. The ammunition used in the firing was poor and was owned by the company, the ministry said.

Separate reports identified the company as Bulgarian-registered.

The Economy Ministry said that the ammunition was produced at VMZ Sopot in 1984 and had been bought by All Guns about four to five years ago.

Economy Minister Bozhidar Lukarski said that the causes of the accident were linked solely to the private company.

The only link to VMZ Sopot was that it had been given the use of the Anevo site, which had a contract with Algans and all the necessary certifications.

Lukarski said that the technical director of VMZ Sopot, the governor, the mayor of Karlovo and members of the board of directors of the company were at the site. He said that he was in constant contact with them and was keeping Prime Minister Boiko Borissov informed.

Speaking to public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television, Sopot mayor Vesselin Lichev said that he could not disclose the identity of the person who died in the accident, and nor could he confirm that there were US citizens involved. He added that there were three foreign citizens and two Bulgarians involved.

The incident had happened as the victims were standing just a few metres apart from each other, he said.

Lichev said that there should be no concern about air pollution or toxic substances. “This is about a single incident involving conventional weapons. There is no danger to the air, no risk of fire or danger to residents of Anevo, Sopot or Iganovo,” he said.

The commander of the 61st Mechanised Brigade told BNT that there were no military exercises at Anevo, where there are two sites, one military and the other that of VMZ Sopot.



The Sofia Globe staff

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