Texas Families Assess Blast Damage
GATESVILLE, Texas (AP) _ Robert Shoaf knelt over one of the 10 craters now dotting his property and sighed in disbelief as he clasped a jagged strip of artillery shrapnel.
``One hundred yards that way, it would have hit my house,″ Shoaf said Saturday, pointing west to the home he shares with his wife, Joan, about 100 miles southwest of Dallas.
Just days earlier, Shoaf and 11 other family members who live on the 300-acre cattle ranch were ducking for cover as Army battalions eight miles away at Fort Hood launched a volley of 155 mm Howitzer artillery shells toward their property.
``It roared like a whistle, and then a bomb exploded,″ the 70-year-old said. ``I didn’t know what it was until the next morning when we found the holes.″
A 4-foot length of the foundation of his home cracked, and chunks of shrapnel lodged in the nearby home of his son Jay.
``It was unreal, like a war zone,″ said Jay Shoaf’s wife, Tammy.
The force of Wednesday night’s blasts, which continued for about an hour, shook pictures off of walls, broke a chandelier in the family room and cracked sections of dry wall.
The shelling happened during a training exercise involving two artillery battalions, said Lt. Col. Maryane Cummings, a spokeswoman for Fort Hood.
``We’re really concerned about safety so that is why we stopped all practice firing until we find out what happened,″ she said.
Cummings said she would not speculate on what went wrong. She said base officials are conducting an investigation.
Robert Shoaf said Army officials had been out to survey the damage on Friday and were expected to return to meet with the family on Tuesday. His family wants some assurance that it won’t happen again.
``We still live here,″ said Tammy Shoaf. ``They better check their instruments before they start up again.″