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4 Marines killed in accident at California base

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JULIE WATSON | November 13, 2013 10:13 PM EST | AP

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — Four Marines were killed Wednesday during an operation to clear a range of unexploded ordnance at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, a Marine official said.

The deaths occurred during a periodic sweep of explosive material to make ranges safe for future exercises, said a Marine official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

There was no live firing on the range at the time, the official said.

The identities of the dead were withheld pending notification of relatives. Base officials released no details on the 11 a.m. accident. Authorities were investigating the cause.

"We offer our heartfelt prayers and condolences to the families of the Marines lost today in this tragic accident," said Brig. Gen. John W. Bullard, commanding general of Marine Corps Installations West at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. "Our first priority is to provide the families with the support they need during this difficult time."

The deaths come about eight months after a mortar explosion killed seven Marines during a live-fire training exercise in Nevada.

A military investigation determined human error was to blame for that accident. According to the probe's findings, a Marine operating a 60 mm mortar tube and ammunition did not follow correct procedures, resulting in the detonation of a high explosive round at the mortar position.

The investigation also determined the mortar team involved in the accident had not conducted "appropriate preparatory training."