Local News

Kinston Residents Hope West Pharmaceuticals Will Rebuild Plant Destroyed In Fire

Posted April 3, 2003

— Two months after an explosion that killed six employees, people in Kinston are hoping for good news. Nothing is set in stone yet, but most people in that area expect the company to rebuild in Kinston.

When WRAL first caught up with Robert Fuller four weeks ago, he was barely home from the hospital. He was critically burned in the West Pharmaceutical Co. explosion.

"I could have died. Thank God, I'm here," he said in an earlier interview.

One month later, Fuller said he is doing a lot better.

"Physically, [I'm] a little itchy when I stand up and walk, but nothing, no pain," he said.

The progress is not as obvious at the scene of the explosion. Cranes are still sorting through wreckage. Leaders at West Pharmaceuticals will not talk about the company's future in Lenoir County, but earlier this week, local manager Tom Cragon sounded optimistic.

"It was a tragic event and we're all happy that we now have the news that we will rebuild in Kinston and we can get back and get a normal life," he said.

Almost half of the company's 250 employees now work in other states with the hopes the plant will rebuild in Kinston. A West Pharmaceutical Services spokeswoman sent an e-mail, stating that "negotiations aimed towards rebuilding are progressing."

West is reportedly waiting on federal investigation results. Depending on what the federal investigation says, the company may decide not to build one large building on the same piece of land. Instead, officials may opt to build several smaller buildings in the area.

As the people of Kinston wait for positive news, Fuller continues to heal at home with a new appreciation for each day.

"Day-by-day, you need to take things day-by-day. Don't take nothing for granted, not even your family and your friends," he said. "You never know when you walk out the door that you might not come back."

West Pharmaceuticals is not saying when it would rebuild. Clearing up the site will likely take weeks or months to complete.

One victim of the explosion is still in the hospital. James Edwards is listed in fair condition at the Jaycee Burn Center.


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