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Australian chemical weapons expert and British colleague die in explosion in the Solomon Islands 

An Australian chemical weapons expert and his British colleague who were working to identify unexploded World War II bombs in the Solomon Islands have been killed in a blast.

Australian Trent Lee and Briton Luke Atkinson, 57, died in a rented apartment in Honiora, the nation’s capital, between 7.30pm and 8pm on Sunday night, their aid agency has confirmed.

Mr Lee, believed to be in his 40s, was a bomb specialist working for Non-Government Organisation Norwegian Peoples Aid, performing sweeps for World War II explosives when the blast occurred. 

An Australian chemical weapons expert and his British colleague who were working to identify unexploded World War II bombs in the Solomon Islands have been killed in a blast

An Australian chemical weapons expert and his British colleague who were working to identify unexploded World War II bombs in the Solomon Islands have been killed in a blast

An Australian chemical weapons expert and his British colleague who were working to identify unexploded World War II bombs in the Solomon Islands have been killed in a blast

Following the blast, residents rushed to the scene to find the men seriously injured, the Solomons Star newspaper reported. 

They were taken to Honiara’s National Referral Hospital. One of the men died at the scene while the other was confirmed dead at the hospital.

Solomons police have sealed off the blast area and launched an investigation.

A police statement said officers of the police force’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal team and Forensics Department were at the scene.

The two men were conducting a non-technical survey on the contamination of unexploded ordnances in the Solomons, the police media statement said.

The US State Department funds the project.

NPA deputy secretary-general Per Nergaard confirmed in a statement that Mr Lee and Mr Atkinson had died in the blast.

‘This is a tragic accident. So far, we know that there has been an explosion with fatal consequences. Our main priority now is to offer assistance to relatives and colleagues and to clarify what has happened,’ he said.

Australian Trent Lee and Briton Luke Atkinson, 57, died in a rented apartment in Honiora, the nation's capital, between 7.30pm and 8pm on Sunday night

Australian Trent Lee and Briton Luke Atkinson, 57, died in a rented apartment in Honiora, the nation's capital, between 7.30pm and 8pm on Sunday night

Australian Trent Lee and Briton Luke Atkinson, 57, died in a rented apartment in Honiora, the nation’s capital, between 7.30pm and 8pm on Sunday night

‘The safety and security of our staff is our highest priority.’

NPA secretary-general Henriette Killi Westhrin said the organisation was devastated by the loss of two good colleagues.

‘Our thoughts and deepest condolences go out to their families, relatives and staff.’

The NPA has 1850 deminers working in 19 countries worldwide.

Source: Daily Mail AU

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