CRESWELL, Ore. - A cannon round from the World War I era exploded Wednesday while a man tried to disassemble the projectile to recycle the brass.
Vernal Miller, 50, suffered serious injuries to his legs and lower torso. He was transported by air ambulance to Sacred Heart Medical Center, where he was listed in serious condition in the intensive care unit.
"What it looks like at this point is a man was working with ammunition," Lt. Byron Trapp of the Lane County Sheriff's Office said at the scene Wednesday. "He suffered pretty significant injuries."
Metro Explosives Disposal Unit personnel determined Thursday that Miller was injured by a 37mm cannon round from the World War I era. These munitions were fired from single- and multiple-barreled mounted rifles. This particular piece was manufactured in Paris, France, in September 1916.
They were a very common World War I souvenir and are still plentiful in Europe, the U.S. and Canada. The shell carried either a high explosive or black powder burst charge that was initiated by an impact fuse in the nose, very similar to a large rifle primer.
According to the sheriff's office, Miller was trying to separate the projectile from the casing in order to recycle the brass from the casing when the device detonated.
The sheriff's office suggested that people who discover munitions that they are not familiar with or that are of military origin should stay a safe distance from the device, do not handle it and immediately notify law enforcement so the device can be evaluated and made safe.