Officials are still investigating an explosion that occurred at the historic Sellier & Bellot ammunition plant earlier this week that left three employees dead. The blast occurred at the plant’s location in Vlašim, Czech Republic and is believed to have been caused by lead styphnate, an explosive commonly used in primers.

Officials said no fire followed the explosion.

“At this moment all I can confirm is that there has been an explosion at the Vlašim arms factory,” police spokeswoman Eva Stulíková told ZprávyExtra.cz.

Stulíková added that additional explosive material at the site prevented investigators from entering the facility for some time. A bomb squad was called in to inspect the plant by helicopter, and authorities used a specially designed robot to make sure it was safe to enter. Even a small amount of lead styphnate is capable of producing a sizable explosion. The compound is sensitive to fire and static electricity. If dry, it has the tendency to spontaneously explode when exposed to static discharges from the human body. For this reason, it is very carefully stored.

Sellier & Bellot has had explosions before, including another fatal incident in 2003. According to the Prague Post, a larger explosion in 1967 killed eight people and injured another 22.

The company was first founded in 1825 by a German businessman by the name of Louis Sellier and originally operated to produce ammunition for Austria. Eventually the factory established itself as one of the largest and oldest ammunition producers in Europe, having been in continuous operation since it opened.

In 2009, Sellier & Bellot was purchased by the Brazilian company CBC, forming a part of one of the largest ammunition manufacturers in the world. Roughly 70 percent of Sellier & Bellot’s production is for hunting or personal defense use, and the rest is sold through government contracts. Thirty percent of its ammunition is exported directly to North America. The company currently employs 1,400 individuals and produces upwards of two million cartridges a day.

Image from Aida on the Wikimedia Commons

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