An investigation has concluded that a security officer at the Y-12 National Security Complex probably inadvertently pulled the trigger when a weapon fired inside a “hardened” vehicle in July, discharging one round that hit an interior wall and produced fragments, and slightly injuring two guards.
The accidental discharge occurred just after midnight on July 28, which, coincidentally, was the one-year anniversary of the July 28, 2012, security breach at Y-12.
The National Nuclear Security Administration said little after the accidental discharge. But the agency did acknowledge that two security police officers, or SPOs, received minor injuries and were treated at Y-12 before being taken to Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge, where they were treated and released. The NNSA also said the incident was under investigation.
Now, officials have concluded a four-month investigation, and B&W Y-12, the plant’s managing and operating contractor, has released a summary of the findings.
Completed Dec. 5, a report on the incident said one of the SPOs was repositioning a duty weapon inside a hardened vehicle outside the protected area at Y-12 when it fired at 12:15 a.m. July 28.
“The weapon discharged a single round that impacted the interior wall of the hardened vehicle producing fragmentation,” the report said. “The fragmentation slightly injured one SPO in the vehicle. A second SPO in the vehicle was disoriented by the loud noise resulting from the weapons discharge and scratched his hand while exiting the hardened patrol vehicle. They received first aid on (the) site and were transported to Oak Ridge Methodist Medical Center as a precaution, where they were treated and released.”
The report identified several issues. It said the weapon’s bolt position was not adjusted to the proper position, thus leaving it in an unsafe mode. And the weapon was not in the locked rack where it would normally be while the vehicle is in use.
“Rather, the SPO moved it out of the rack and placed it on its side next to the rack when it discharged a single round,” the report said. “Tests conducted with an identical weapon resulted in the weapon not firing without the trigger being pulled, leading investigators to determine that the SPO more than likely inadvertently pulled the trigger while handling the weapon outside of its storage rack.”
An Accident Investigation Board assembled by Y-12 President and General Manager Chuck Spencer investigated and, using a weapons analysis by the National Training Centers, concluded that the most probable cause was that, while picking the weapon up off of the wheel well floor, the trigger was inadvertently pressed and the gun fired, the report said.
The muzzle was very close to the rear of the vehicle, just above the wheel well and near the side of the vehicle when the gun fired, the report said.
Y-12 has not identified the two officers, or the type of weapon or vehicle.
The Knoxville News Sentinel has reported that the two officers were fired in mid-October, according to a union leader, and the union has filed a grievance.
The union leader, Shannon Gray, president of the International Guards Union of America, Local 3, did not return phone calls seeking comment on Tuesday afternoon and was not available Wednesday afternoon.
The report said the accidental discharge issue had not previously been identified at Y-12. The investigation concluded the weapon was in excellent working order, and Y-12 procedures are up to date and the program management focus is periodically and appropriately addressing the identified issue and associated events, among other things.
Since the July 28 discharge, patrol orders and training on firearms safety protocols have been modified to include lessons learned from the accidental discharge, the report said. A more detailed “lesson learned” is currently being developed by the Safeguards, Security, and Emergency Services Division.