Local News

New Kinston Plant Almost Ready One Year After Deadly Blast

Posted January 29, 2004

— Thursday marks the one year anniversary of an explosion ripped through the West Pharmaceutical plant in Kinston.

The blast killed six, hurt dozens more and changed hundreds of lives. A year later, the company is concentrating on building its future.

Watch Thursday's Memorial Ceremony at 9 p.m. Thursday on WRAL's NewsChannel (digital cable ch. 256, digital ch. 5.2)

An abandoned skeleton of burnt and twisted metal is what remains of the old West Pharmaceutical plant. Construction is well under way at a new facility located a few miles away.

"I think everyone is excited about the new plant. They're excited that West is staying in Kinston," said Troy Player, plant manager.

Player said with plenty of help from the community, the company had come a long way in a short time.

After the explosion, about 100 employees were laid off.

Another 110 employees took temporary positions in plants in Nebraska and Florida. For the last year, those workers have spent three weeks of every month away from their families.

"Our primary goal was to get the plant finished so we could bring people home to work from the other states," Player said.

A few are already back and Player said limited production will begin in Kinston late February. The company expects to have the plant complete and to have its employees back home by June.

The explosion that tore this building apart brought the Kinston West Pharmaceutical family closer together. Many said its comforting to know they will soon be working under the same roof.

A newly announced federal grant will also help replace jobs lost by the disaster.

Lenoir Community College is getting $600,000 from the Commerce Department. It will use the money to build a science-technology building to educate workers at the new plant.

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