A father is dead and his two children injured when a grenade accidentally went off in their Indiana home on Saturday as they were going through old belongings, according to authorities.
The deceased was identified Sunday by the Lake County Coroner’s Office as Bryan Niedert, 47. “Injuries, cause and manner of death are all pending,” it said in a statement.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Department responded to the home in the 3400 block of W. Lakeshore Drive around 6:30 p.m. for a reported explosion.
The family was looking through a grandfather’s belongings at the northwestern Indiana home when they found a Vietnam-era hand grenade. The device detonated when someone reportedly pulled its pin, the sheriff’s department says.
The father was found unresponsive and later pronounced dead at the hospital. His two children, a 14-year-old boy and an 18-year-old girl, were taken to an area hospital with shrapnel wounds. The boy has also been reported as being 17.
A bomb squad was called to the home “to secure the area and determine whether there may be additional explosive devices,” the authorities said.
Such grenade detonations are extremely rare, said Lt. Col. Robert Leiendecker, an expert on explosive ordnance disposal and a former commander of the 67th Ordnance Detachment stationed at Fort McNair.
“There are a lot of hand grenades out there in private homes, parts of collections or war souvenirs the family has kept,” Colonel Leiendecker said. But “a very, very high percentage,” he added, “are totally inert and safe to handle.” Unbeknown to all involved, this one was not.
About 15 years ago, the colonel said, it was more common to see families stumbling upon war souvenirs like a grenade or some rounds of ammunition while cleaning the attics or closets of World War II veterans
“The last thing you ever want to do with a grenade is pull the pin until you know 1,010 percent that it’s totally inert,” he said. At this time it’s not known why one of the people involved pulled the pin.