Breaking: Powder Plant Owner Guilty of Manslaughter

BREAKING exclamation point

We have just learned that black powder substitute manufacturer Craig Sanborn was convicted of state manslaughter and negligent homicide charges — two counts of each, relating to two deaths — Wednesday in New Hampshire.

Sanborn was the former owner of defunct Black Mag, which made a blackpowder substitute — at least, until a massive explosion destroyed the plant on May 14, 2010.  When the fires were out, two workers’ bodies remained in the wreckage of the building.

The court case ran with great rapidity, and accelerated as it neared the end (indeed, we expected it to conclude today, hence, we didn’t check on Sanborn’s fate. However, the local paper had correctly called it, and we had noted, it ending on the 24th). The prosecution took over two weeks — 12 working days of evidence — to present dozens of witnesses and exhibits. The defense presented two days of testimony. Sanborn’s wife testified, but he did not. Wednesday morning both side presented closing arguments, and by 1100 the jury was charged. At 1430 they were back with a verdict of guilty on all counts.

It’s self-evident that they found the prosecution case convincing: that Sanborn, who was 1700 miles away at a trade show, had been reckless in his set-up of the plant and his training of the workers. His defense appears to have been (1) that he wasn’t even there at the time of the blast; and (2) he didn’t think the powder was all that dangerous. If he was negligent in his construction and oversight of the plant, it’s hard to see how these arguments could get him off the hook.

Sanborn was remanded on $250k bail. His sentencing hearing remains unscheduled at this time.

Experts were unable to determine the probable cause of the explosion. There were several possibilities, including heaters with open flames, and machinery operated without documentation and possibly outside parameters; but the physical evidence didn’t point to any cause in particular.

The local Colebrook Sentinel has the result on its front page here. It has a detailed report of part of the prosecution case in last week’s paper here. Note that by this Wednesday, these links will be replaced by the next paper and there’s no online archive, so these links will go dead very quickly. The Sentinel’s Jake Mardin, who attended the trial, will have a report on the trial and its conclusion in Wednesday’s paper. By the Wednesday after that, the story will be gone from the net for good.

We think we’ve been unique among the gun press in covering Sanborn’s trial. We are proud to have done so, but admit, we did not cover it as tightly as we probably ought to have done, and we were entirely dependent on local news reporters like Mardin. The national media expressed interest in the start of the trial, but then dropped their coverage. (“Squirrel!”?)

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1 thought on “Breaking: Powder Plant Owner Guilty of Manslaughter

  1. Y.

    Heaters with open flames in a powder manufacturing facility?

    O_o ?

    I remember reading people making fireworks had to stand on anti-static mats and wear special clothing so there’s be no risk of a stray static spark..

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