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Fireworks explosion ruled accidental; victims identified

Posted July 5, 2009
Updated July 6, 2009

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— Senior pastor Bill Wilson of The Lord's Table church, 1215 Parkway Drive in Goldsboro, said the four people who died in the Ocracoke Island fireworks explosion were Wayne County residents. He identified them as Mark Hill, Terry Holland, Charles Kirkland Jr. and Lisa Simmons.

A surviving worker, Holland's nephew, had burns on 20 percent of his body but was listed in fair condition Sunday at the North Carolina Jaycees Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

Church mourns loss of four to fireworks explosion

The victims knew each other through the church and had been privately contracted by Melrose South Pyrotechnics to set up the Ocracoke Island fireworks display.

“I could not believe it, it was just about impossible to believe,” Charles Kirkland Sr. said.

Kirkland said his son, who went by "Kirk," had been unemployed and was looking for odd jobs.

“He took this job so he could try to make some money so he wouldn't have to depend on mom and daddy,” said Lynne Smith, Kirk's sister.

Holland was the church's building and maintenance supervisor. Wilson says he was like a son to him.

"I lost a brother not too long ago. I lost a sister. But when I lost Terry, it hurt even worse,” he said.

Wilson says Simmons had volunteered in the church's nursery.

“I've never dreaded coming to church here in 11 years. This Sunday, I told my wife as we drove to church, this was the first time in 11 years I dreaded going to church,” Wilson said.

The State Bureau of Investigation, federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Company wrapped up the investigation into the blast Sunday. The cause of Saturday's explosion was ruled accidental, Hyde County spokeswoman Jamie Tunnell said.

Representatives from Melrose South Pyrotechnics, headquartered near Rock Hill, S.C., were on site Sunday to assist with the probe.

"Everyone at Melrose South Pyrotechnics is grief-stricken over the loss of life and injuries sustained in this terrible tragedy," the company's statement read.

Silent parade held for victims

Meanwhile, a silent parade in tribute to the victims was held Sunday afternoon along the intended route of Saturday's Ocracoke Island parade.

The parade aimed to "honor the fireworks employees, along with the firefighters and community volunteers who responded to yesterday's tragedy," Tunnell said.

“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,” Rudy Austin, president of the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association, said in a statement. “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.”

 

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