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Cause of Blast on Battleship Iowa Eludes New Probe

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Scientists may never be able to prove whether the 1989 explosion aboard the battleship Iowa was accidental or an act of sabotage, congressional investigators said Wednesday.

The investigators for the first time gave the statistical probability that the explosion was an accident: perhaps one chance in 16.

In its initial investigation, the Navy concluded that the explosion “most probably” was set off intentionally by Gunner’s Mate Clayton M. Hartwig, who was described as having been despondent over a failed personal relationship. Later, experiments indicated that the gunpowder used aboard the battleship could ignite prematurely under certain conditions.

The Navy had said it found evidence that an ignition device was used to set off the powder, but the General Accounting Office report Wednesday cast doubt on that theory.

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“There is no explicit physical evidence that the hypothetical chemical ignition device was present in the center gun of Turret 2 at the time of the explosion,” the GAO said.

The GAO said it could not state a probable cause of the blast, which killed 47 sailors on April 19, 1989.


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