Three men received lesser injuries. The accident happened during a routine procedure in which the men were disposing of unused explosive powder. It was to be loaded into a concrete-lined fire trench on the artillery range near Houthalen-Helchteren in Limburg, where it would be exploded safely. During the transfer of the unopened boxes from the truck to the trench, the powder ignited.
Three men who were standing behind the truck escaped with minor injuries. Four others, including Warrant Officer Johan Bosmans, who was in charge of the operation, sustained severe burns. WO Bosmans, from Schoten near Antwerp, has been in the army for 21 years, 19 of them with DOVO. He died later of his injuries. Minister of defence Pieter De Crem and chief of the defence staff General Gerard Van Caelenberge sent messages of condolence to his wife and young son.
“This is a severe blow for our service,” said DOVO commander Luc Moerman. The same sort of operation is carried out monthly without incident. The cause of the fire is being investigated. It’s the second serious incident to take place on the Houthalen-Helchteren range, part of the Kleine Brogel military base, this year. In April, a test firing for a private company led to a fire that destroyed 500 hectares of the surrounding grassland.