Cannon backfires at Fort McHenry in Baltimore

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BALTIMORE (AP) — In late-breaking news from the 19th century, there's been a cannon recall.

The National Park Service said in a release that an iron reproduction historic cannon exploded during a celebratory firing Sept. 16 at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, launching a 100-pound mound of metal on the cannon's rear more than 300 feet afield and sending some other debris even further.

The cannon was filled with powder and fired during a send-off for a fleet of tall ships that visited Baltimore for the Star-Spangled Spectacular, a weeklong celebration of the Star-Spangled Banner's 200th anniversary. The firing was a salute to the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle and the Pride of Baltimore II, a replica of a topsail schooner that sank in the Caribbean in 1986.

No spectators were injured during the incident, though one crew member sustained minor flash burns and cuts during the explosion.

The boom did, however, shake the Maryland-based cannon manufacturer's standing with the parks service — at least temporarily.

In a Sept. 19 internal safety alert sent to all parks with historic weapons demonstrations and obtained by The Associated Press, the parks service announced that all makes and models of cannons from the manufacturer Cannons Online will be taken out of service until further notice.

A call to Cannons Online was not immediately returned Wednesday.

According to the memo, metal debris was flung as far as 400 feet from the cannon after the explosion. The memo also directs all parks with historic weapons demonstrations to review their safety policies and operating procedures.

The park service says it has suspended the black powder historic weapons firing program at Fort McHenry.

National Parks Service spokesman Mike Litterst said Fort McHenry and the National Parks Service have opened an investigation into the incident, and called a representative from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to the scene.

ATF spokesman Ken Ryan said the agency is not involved in the investigation, but confirmed that one representative did temporarily assist park staff after the explosion.

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