State Issues Fines, Citations In Deadly Ocracoke Explosion

State investigators say they found a pack a cigarettes and a butane lighter two feet from a truck full of fireworks that blew up this summer, killing four people.

The state labor department has cited Melrose South Pyrotechnics for nine serious violations and two listed as non-serious for the July 4th explosion on Ocracoke. The company has been fined $44,800.

Four people were killed in the explosion, many who attended the same Goldsboro church. Mark Hill, Terry Holland, Charles Kirkland Junior, and Lisa Simmons died in the blast. Holland was the maintenance director for the Lords Table Church, Kirkland was the son of the church's care pastor and Simmons was identified as a parishioner.

The only survivor of the explosion, was Marquez Holland, nephew of Terry Holland.

The state says there were 680 pounds of fireworks in a rental truck that blew up. The labor department says workers were in the back of the truck assembling electronic matches into fuses when the accident happened.

One of the violations says employees were permitted to "introduce possible ignition sources" such as a lighter within 50 feet of where the fireworks were located. The state says a pack of cigarettes and a butane lighter were found two feet from the rear corner of the rental truck containing the fireworks.

Another violation says a motorcycle type battery was found on the rear floor of the truck, another possible source of ignition. A third possible source of ignition was spark producing tools that employees were allowed to use.

The state also claims the company did not provide personal protective equipment to minimize the generation of static electricity to its employees.

Until now, Melrose South Pyrotechnics had no violations in North Carolina, but had been cited in South Carolina for one previous safety violation. A 2001 explosion at its plant near Rock Hill, S.C., killed a 24-year-old seasonal employee and injured two workers. In a settlement with the state, the company agreed to pay a reduced fine of $20,750 without acknowledging any wrongdoing.

Two years ago, two employees were hurt during a fireworks show at Fort Stewart, Ga. Officials blamed a firework that detonated prematurely and started a chain reaction.

The South Carolina-based company has 15 business days to appeal the state's decision.

The accident caused state lawmakers to tighten safety rules for fireworks. Handlers must now pass an exam, take training and have assisted in other fireworks shows before they can obtain a North Carolina permit to set up a show.

WITN left a message with Melrose South Pyrotechnics for comment, but so far the company has not called us back.

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  • by Bobby Location: Nags Head on Jan 9, 2010 at 10:06 PM
    I am curious about why they were inserting the fuses inside the truck. Did this decision have any thing to do with the fire department wetting down the area?
  • by Vance on Dec 12, 2009 at 05:37 PM
    USMC it dont take a rocket scientist to know hence the mushroom cloud.Every explosion is unpredictable.When or if you were in they military you were probably told to hit the deck if somebody threw a grenade your way hoping that when it did go off it shrapnel would fly over yor head or maybe just hitting you in the upper buttox if you are lucky.Untrained? No PROOF.Why are you worried about how much money they make?Do you work for OBAMA?I have read your comment at Dec.11 at 11:44 these people put thier lives at risk every day working with explosives. Correct tools?Protective Equipment?For a USMC man or girl once again you sound like you work for Nancy Pelosi.How do you know they were untrained?NO PROOF!For a person that worked for the USMC that is not an explosive expert thanks for your insight.BUT HENSE THE TWO FOOT!
  • by ace Location: plymouth on Dec 12, 2009 at 01:38 PM
    Its amazing how fast our goverernmet rep (Basnight) jump on the band wagon for publicity to have more laws inacted when there were already laws being broken. Just remember this come election time.
  • by Vance on Dec 12, 2009 at 06:28 AM
    USMC like I said I am not an expert I just find it hard to believe when people keep things like that in thier shirt pocket not on the ground.With an explosion like this I just cant gather how the cigarettes got thier unless possibly someone with the state labor department planted them thier.Wonder if any finger prints were taken off the pack of cigarettes and or lighter to see if it matched any of the people that worked with Melrose South or the state labor department.
  • by jason Location: hyde on Dec 11, 2009 at 10:27 PM
    i agree Vance, but who gave the permit to have this in place to start with. Did they have the authority? Do they just walk around and wait to do this again *& again.? Where is their penalty. I was issueing the permits illegally realy a death certificate indiscuise?
  • by USMC on Dec 11, 2009 at 08:44 PM
    Vance, I am far from an "expert" in explosion's, however my time in the military did teach me a few things about explosions. First of all, the explosive force likely went straight upwards, hence the mushroom cloud. Considering the safety violations, I find it more offensive that the death of 4 workers due to the companies failure to provide correct tools, protective equipment, and ensureing that the employee's adhered to these policies is only worth $44,000 dollars. They probably make that much in one or two shows alone! Think about it, the company put untrained, under equipped people on the SAME highways that your family travels without ANY precautions whatsoever. Thankfully this was a pretty isolated incident, unfortunate for those that were working there but in reality it was a time bomb just waiting for the right time to go off. It could have very well happened in crowded area, on the highway's with your family right beside or behind them, anywhere.
  • by Vance on Dec 11, 2009 at 02:48 PM
    I am not an explosive expert but I and I think that everybody would agree with this except a few lawyers.Would not the shock wave from the explosion blown the pack of cigarettes more than two feet away and would not the lighter be blown into oblivion.I did not read the whole story I am not going to waste my time on that because OF TWO FEET!The State Labor Department is looking for money the American Way.PITIFUL!

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