Huong Hoa, Quang Tri, February 07, 2010
A Sunday afternoon explosion of old wartime ordnance seriously wounded four Van Kieu men while they were weeding at a coffee plantation near the former U.S. Marine based at Khe Sanh. The accident occurred in Tram Village, Huong Tan Commune of Huong Hoa District, where the Van Kieu and Paco ethnic minorities make up most of the local population along the western border area of Quang Tri Province.
The four victims, Ho Van Chung, Ho Van Muong, Ho Van Van and Ho Kham Di, are Van Kieu men in their middle and late twenties. After the accident they were taken to Huong Tan Health Station for first aid treatment then transferred to hospital at Khe Sanh. With minor injuries to his legs, Ho Kham Di was kept there for further treatment, but his three cousins were transported to Quang Tri General Hospital for treatment of more serious wounds.
Chung, born in 1983, suffered most of the blast from the explosion. “My hoe hit the bomb while I was removing weeds from around a coffee tree,” Chung said. “My cousins were all behind me. I don’t know what the ordnance was.”
Chung said he was in severe pain because all four of his limbs were badly injured. The explosion severed his right hand’s thumb and index finger. Open wounds could be seen on his left thigh and shin, and his right foot was badly injured.
Muong and Van did not lose much blood but tiny, sharp shrapnel went through their abdomens which caused terrible pain. The physician said both of these men would need X-rays before a decision could be made if surgery was needed to remove the shrapnel. Sometimes, the doctor said, it’s safer for a patient to live on with metal fragments in the body than to risk trying to remove the shrapnel.
Huong Tan Commune is in proximity with Ta Con Airstrip, the Vietnamese name for the area known by the U.S. military as Khe Sanh Combat Base, an outpost of the U.S. Marines operating in South Vietnam during Vietnam war. In October 2008, also in Tram Village, an explosion of old wartime ordnance detonated in the kitchen of a Van Kieu family. The explosion killed a four-year-old son and injured the mother and her three-year-old daughter.