Navy Shell Explodes; Metal Chunk Falls at High School

Times Staff Writer

More than 200 Navy shells were removed Tuesday from a Watts-area recycling center after one exploded and launched a chunk of metal onto the campus of neighboring Jordan High School.

No students were in the schoolyard when the projectile, which authorities said may have been a 155-millimeter shell, flew 1,500 feet before hitting around noon Monday, shortly before a student break was to begin.

The only reported injury was minor and was suffered by a visitor at the Atlas Iron & Metal Recycling Center.


Alarmed officials evacuated more than 2,500 students from the school, which remained closed Tuesday. It is scheduled to reopen today.

The shells had been certified as “inert,” and were being dismantled when the explosion occurred.

Spokesmen for the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said an Army inspection team came to the school after the accident and confirmed that all of the other projectiles and scrap materials, believed to be from the Navy’s San Clemente Test Range, were inert.

Navy spokesman Lee Saunders in San Diego said the shells had been certified inert by the URS Corp., under contract to the Navy, before being shipped to Atlas.

But they were ordered removed, and the owner of the recycling firm, Gary J. Weisenberg, said Tuesday that his facility will never handle such material again. The shells were sent to a site in Arizona.

School Principal Dhal Lal said that last year a 55-gallon drum came flying over the football field from the recycling center, and that Atlas managers assured him it wouldn’t happen again. An Atlas spokesman said no such incident ever occurred.