Shells on wrong trajectory

16:00, Nov 20 2009
BIG WHACK: Constable Paul Mark with one of the blank howitzer shells that turned up at Blacks Fasteners yesterday.
BIG WHACK: Constable Paul Mark with one of the blank howitzer shells that turned up at Blacks Fasteners yesterday.

Staff at a Christchurch hardware manufacturing company were shocked to find three boxes of military-style ammunition cartridges among a pallet delivered to the warehouse yesterday.

Roger Black, of Blacks Fasteners, found three wooden cartons containing blank rounds for a 105mm howitzer wrapped up with a shipment of Blacks' supplies.

A howitzer is a field artillery weapon.

When fired, the blank cartridges create a loud bang, to simulate real live rounds.

Black said staff were "shocked" when the boxes marked "Explosives", "Cartridges for Weapons" and "Handle with Care" were discovered.

"We didn't know what they were at first, but they were shells," he said.

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Black rang the police and Constable Paul Mark assessed the ammunition. He said the shells were "the sort of stuff you don't want to get into other people's hands".

"A 105 [howitzer] is a big field gun. Even though they're blanks there's still a big whack in them – enough to take you to pieces if detonated," Mark said.

Army spokesman Chris Dunne said the ammunition belonged to the New Zealand Defence Force and that Roadstar, a freight company licensed to handle dangerous goods, had been contracted to deliver the boxes to the army in Glentunnel.

"The company made a mistake. The civilian contractor has gone back to collect them and redelivered them to the army," Dunne said.

He said the army used the blank rounds for military displays such as 21-gun salutes.

He would not comment on whether the army would carry out any inquiries into the incident, but said it was likely Roadstar would investigate.

Mark Gibson, chief executive officer of Express Courier – the company that owns Roadstar – said company representatives had spoken with the Defence Force and would carry out a review of how the error occurred.

"Obviously what occurred was unsatisfactory and we will be reviewing processes to make sure we don't have another incident of this type."

The company had a long-standing relationship with the Defence Force, and it was unlikely the error would jeopardise that, Gibson said.

The Press