A teenage boy in Virginia was killed two days before Christmas after a World War II-era hand grenade that was thought to be inactive exploded.
The Federal Agency for Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the grenade was likely purchased in June at the Fancy Flea Antique Mall in Shallotte, NC.
It said other grenades “may have been sold by the same seller in June” and police officers were “concerned that the grenades bought by the seller contain live explosives and could be dangerous to the public”.
Authorities may not be able to determine the exact number of grenades sold at the mall in Shallotte, a coastal town nearly 100 miles south of Fayetteville, as transactions were made in cash during the busy summer season, a spokesman for the office said.
A similar style grenade sold around the same time “has yet to be considered,” the spokesman said.
In a statement, the mall said that “there was only one other grenade sold by the same seller the next day,” that it was “very sorry that this happened,” and that “we all felt that the Grenade was sluggish “.
The chain of ownership of the grenade before it is sold in the mall is unclear.
The MK2 shell exploded on December 23, the office said, killing the teenager in Abingdon, Virginia, a town in southwest Virginia near the Tennessee border. The office did not identify the teen and it was not clear if the teen was the one who bought the grenade.
The spokesman for the bureau helping the Abingdon Police Department investigate said the officers spoke to the mall. The police did not respond to a request for comment.
Active grenades can fall into the wrong hands after being kept as wartime souvenirs by ex-military personnel Bob Morhard, an explosives security advisor in North Carolina.
“Who knows what will happen to you after that?” he said. “Grandpa’s box somewhere and someone thought they could sell it by mail.”
The mall shouldn’t have taken the device if it had been offered, or should have called the authorities to investigate when the grenade came into its possession, Morhard said.
There are “lots of subtle clues” that can show that a grenade is still dangerous, he said.
The grenade that exploded in Virginia was likely noticeably heavy, he said, adding that inert grenades that have been stripped of the explosives inside often have a hole “in the cave to see that it is empty”.
More than 20 million MK2 shells were manufactured in the 1920s until they were replaced with a new model in the late 1960s, Morhard said. The “pineapple” case was “designed to explode in the event of an explosion,” he said.
A three to five second delay precedes the explosion after the pin is pulled, he said. The grenade explosion is fatal within a 16-foot zone, Morhard said, and within a 50-foot zone, injuries “can vary from life-threatening to maybe nothing.”
Michael Levenson contributed to the coverage.