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Owner could face 20 year prison term after fatal gunpowder factory blast

05 December 2013

Craig Sanborn, the president, manager and owner of the Black Mag gunpower factory in Colebrook, New Hampshire, has been found guilty of multiple charges of manslaughter and negligent homicide for his role in the deaths of two employees. He faces the possibility of 20 years in prison, and was given fines of $10,000 in the Coos County Superior Court, N.H..

An explosion at the Black Mag factory in Colebrook on May 14, 2010, killed the two workers while they were manufacturing a gunpowder substitute. Both had been working at the facility for a month when they died.

The explosion, which also injured a third employee, was so strong that it shook buildings blocks away and forced the evacuation of nearby buildings. Firefighters were unable to fight the blaze because ammunition inside the factory was exploding.

Coos County Prosecutor John McCormick told jurors that Sanborn was motivated by greed and was trying to meet the conditions of a contract for which he already had received a $300,000 down payment. As a result, according to McCormick, Sanborn was reckless in manufacturing and storing the black powder and did not provide adequate training for employees or a safe work environment.

McCormick also claimed that Sanborn stored a half a ton of explosive powder on site but did not have a permit to store more than 50 pounds.

Sanborn’s lawyer, Mark Sisti, said Sanborn was out of town and noted the explosion could have been caused by various scenarios, including employee error or a stray piece of metal creating friction inside a machine.

“The disregard for safety cost two workers their lives, and this jury agreed that Craig Sanborn’s actions were criminal,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels. “The Labor Department commends the Coos County Attorney's Office for its successful prosecution. We also appreciate the invaluable cooperation of the New Hampshire Department of Safety, specifically the fire marshal and the state police, during our investigation.”

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