Explosion injures a rural Cowley County man

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By Shane Farley
November 3, 2012 - 6:00:15 pm

A Cowley County man suffered serious burns Saturday afternoon when explosives, commonly used in target shooting, accidentally detonated and injured him, undersheriff Bill Mueller said.

Just after 12:30 p.m., Benjamin C. Lette, 20, and a 17-year-old juvenile, who was not named, were attempting to detonate an explosive material known commercially as Tannerite. The substance detonated prematurely in the vicinity of both men.

The incident occurred at a property on 21st Rd. just south of 132 Rd., north west of Winfield, where Lette lives. Both people involved were injured and transported by private vehicle to the hospital.

Lette was later transported to a Wichita hospital, though his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening, Mueller said. He was struck by debris from the blast.

Lette suffered the most serious burns to his legs but also was burned to at least some extent on other areas of his body.

The 17-year-old suffered lesser injuries.

Emergency responders initially experienced delays getting to the scene because someone reporting the incident had provided a wrong address out of confusion, Mueller said.

Tannerite is becoming more and more common to local authorities who have received numerous reports about it in recent weeks. The substance, which Mueller said can be bought legally and is popular at gun shows, is designed to detonate when the container it’s in is struck by a high-velocity round from a firearm.

Those in rural areas have called the sheriff’s dept. multiple times recently to report loud explosions near them. Investigation has led deputies to target shooters using Tannerite.

“Evidently it can create quite the boom,” Mueller said.

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