NEW INFO: Five injured in Duplin County plant explosion

ROSE HILL, NC (WITN) - Five employees of a contractor that was doing work at a Duplin County feed plant have been injured in a morning explosion.

Rose Hill Fire Chief Gary Boney told WITN News that the explosion happened at Valley Proteins on Yellowcut Road, off of Highway 117.

He said three medical helicopters were called in for victims.

The company says the explosion happened around 10:45 a.m. in the plant's finished product area.

Michael Smith, vice chairman of Valley, told WITN that four workers were airlifted after a flash explosion. He said the four were likely taken to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill. A fifth victim was taken to Vidant Duplin, but later air lifted to the burn center as well.

Smith said some of the injured may have third-degree burns.

The company executive says the area where work was being done is a dusty area, and he assumes that dust caused the explosion. Smith said he did not believe the contractor had the proper "hot work" permits needed to be using welding and cutting equipment in that area.

He said it's believed the contractors were using a welder at the time of the explosion.

None of their employees were in the area where the explosion happened, according to Smith, and it doesn't appear the plant received much damage from the blast.

The North Carolina Department of Labor is investigating the mishap.