| July 5, 2009
UPDATE…..Fourth person dies from
injuries from fireworks truck explosion
By IRENE NOLAN
A fourth person has died from injuries suffered yesterday, July 4, when
a truck loaded with fireworks exploded on Ocracoke Island.
The dead were all from a crew of five workers from Melrose South
Pyrotechnics of Catawba, S.C., who were setting up for the holiday
fireworks on Ocracoke when the truck exploded in the parking lot of the
North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching campus on the
According to Hyde County public information officer Jamie Tunnell, one
fatality occurred on site yesterday morning. Two crew members were
transferred to Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville, N.C., for
care and were confirmed fatalities early this afternoon by the Hyde
County Sherriff’s Department.
The other two were transferred to a University of North
Carolina’s Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill, N.C., for care. One
of those two workers died yesterday. The other crew member has burns
over 20 percent of his body and is listed in fair condition, according
to hospital authorities.
At the time of the explosion, Tunnell said in a media release, the
Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department and Hyde County Emergency Medical
Services crews were already on site for safety precautions during the
There were no critically injured bystanders or volunteers, but two
volunteer firemen were transported to Outer Banks Hospital for
observation and treatment of inhalation and exhaustion. One firefighter
was released Saturday night and the other firefighter was released
An investigation of the site and cause of the explosion continued today
with representatives of the state Federal Bureau of Investigation
(SBI), Bureau of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF),
and the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD). Representatives from
Melrose Pyrotechnics were on the island today to assist with the
ATF, along with the other representatives, has determined that it was
an accident that occurred during the setup of the July 4 show.
Melrose South Pyrotechnics issued a media release yesterday to say that
the company is working with federal and local officials to determine
the cause of the accident.
“These types of incidents,” the release said, “are
difficult to determine what really happened until all aspects of the
investigation are complete. Melrose South Pyrotechnics personnel
arrived on the site last night to assist investigators in this matter.
A meeting was held at the scene and the Melrose South personnel were
given an overview of the incident.”
Neither Hyde County officials nor the company has identified the dead workers.
However, a member of The Lord’s Table Church in Goldsboro, N.C.,
who did not want to be identified, said that the four who died were all
from that area and members of the church.
“Along with their normal, full-time jobs, a few of our members
did these fireworks setups for years,” she wrote in an e-mail to
The Island Free Press. “Those who died in Saturday's explosion
were Terry Holland, Charles Kirkland Jr., Lisa Simmons, and Mark
Hill. The one who survived was Terry Holland's nephew.”
The e-mail continued:
“Terry Holland was
our maintenance director and was involved in just about every aspect of
the church's day to day existence -- always there to help, to set
things up, clean up, greeting at the door, oversee special events, and
kept the church running in tip top shape.
Lisa Simmons was a sweet,
hard working single mom raising a young son and was also involved in
different ministries and helps in the church.
Charles Kirkland, Jr.,
had recently moved back to Goldsboro to be near his parents. His
father, Charles Kirkland, is one of our pastors and oversees the
seniors, along with several other duties. They had just remarked
what a gift it was to have him back home and how much they treasured
the time together.”
Fourth of July activities on Ocracoke Island were canceled yesterday.
There was a silent parade today at 3 p.m. to honor and memorialize the
fireworks company’s employees and pay tribute to the emergency
personnel and community volunteers who responded to yesterday’s
“If there is anything positive that can come from a tragedy like
this, it is the reaction of our community, neighbors, emergency
personnel, and local and state authorities who cooperated to provide
the best care and maintain safety of the island yesterday,” said
Rudy Austin, president of the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association.
“We were honored to have the opportunity to thank our local
responders for their work and show our support and grief to the
families of the victims.”
All ferries to and from Ocracoke are now open and running on regular schedule.
July 4, 2009
Three people die and two are critically injured
in explosion of fireworks truck on Ocracoke
By IRENE NOLAN
Three people were killed and two were critically injured today on
Ocracoke in an explosion of a tractor-trailer truck carrying fireworks
for a July 4 display.
The truck, which had arrived on Ocracoke last evening, was in the
parking lot of the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of
Teaching campus, where the fireworks were to be set off tonight, when
the explosion happened. The campus is near the ferry docks in the
The victims were all employees of Melrose Pyrotechnics, Inc., out of
South Carolina, the company that was to mount the fireworks display.
One victim died at the scene. The four critically injured employees
were transported off Ocracoke on two helicopters from East Care, out of
Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville, N.C., and one from Dare
MedFlight, out of Dare County. Two were taken to Pitt County Memorial
Hospital, and another two were taken to the burn center at the
University of North Carolina Hospital in Chapel Hill.
One of the two injured transported to Chapel Hill died later in the day, as did one employee taken to Pit Memorial.
Two members of the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department were transported
to Outer Banks Hospital by Dare County Emergency Medical Services to be
treated for smoke inhalation and exhaustion.
The names of the victims and their conditions were not available this afternoon.
The explosion happened at about 9 a.m. as the Melrose employees were
preparing to transfer the pyrotechnics to a smaller truck to transport
them a short distance to the point at Silver Lake Harbor for the
“It sounded like a sonic boom, but it just kept on going,”
said Ruth Fordon, who operates Lightkeepers Guest House on the island.
Fordon said there was one big explosion and then random smaller explosions as the fireworks kept igniting.
The Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department was already on the scene to provide support for setting up the evening’s fireworks.
The explosion set trees on fire. Those fires were quickly extinguished. No structures were damaged.
At this point, according to various officials, the cause of the explosion is unknown.
According to a Hyde County press release, officials from the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and
Explosives, and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company were expected
to be on the site this afternoon to help determine the cause of the
accident and whether any unexploded pyrotechnics remained in the
The Hatteras Inlet ferry suspended operations for several hours this morning, but resumed its runs at about 11 a.m.
According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation Ferry
Division, the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter ferries are still shut down
“Once clearance is received from Homeland Security, the ferry
will resume operations to and from Cedar Island and Swan
Quarter,” according to a Ferry Division press release. “The
hours will be extended to accommodate all travelers who had
reservations and those in the stand-by lanes.”
In addition to Hyde County emergency personnel, first responders
from Dare, Pender, and Carteret counties responded to the explosion.
From Dare County, the respondents included the Buxton, Frisco, and
Hatteras Fire Departments, Emergency Medical Services (including Dare
MedFlight), and the Hatteras Island Rescue Squad.
Some of the July 4 activities scheduled for Ocracoke went on as
planned. However the Old Time Ocracoke Parade has been postponed
until tomorrow – Sunday, July 5, at 3 p.m.