Local News

Fireworks explosion victims attended same church

Posted July 6, 2009

— A Goldsboro church is mourning the loss of four members after what authorities have ruled as an accidental explosion of a truck carrying fireworks. The explosion also seriously injured another person on Ocracoke Island July 4.

Senior Pastor Bill Wilson of The Lord's Table Church identified the four people who died as Mark Hill, 21; Terry Holland, 49; Lisa Simmons, 41; and Charles Kirkland Jr., all of them residents of Wayne County.

The lone survivor, whose name hasn't been released, had burns on 20 percent of his body and was listed in fair condition Monday at the North Carolina Jaycees Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. Wilson said the survivor was Holland's nephew.

Terry Holland Church recalls fireworks explosion victims

The church is in the process of putting together a memorial service for the victims.

“This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” the pastor said.

Holland, who had previously organized fireworks teams, was hired by Melrose South Pyrotechnics to lead a crew to do the village of Ocracoke Island's fireworks display, said Charles Kirkland Sr. He recruited church members for his crew, hoping to help them earn some extra money.

“We knew Terry (Holland) knew what he was doing,” Wilson said.

Among those Holland recruited was Simmons, whom he had dated, Wilson said. Simmons loved children and volunteered in the church nursery.

“She had just been baptized, and her church, and her Lord, and her Christianity were her life,” her mother, Judy Gray, said.

Mother mourns daughter killed in firework explosion Mother mourns daughter killed in firework explosion

Gray said Simmons grew up loving fireworks, and that Independence Day was her favorite holiday.  She also says Simmons was trained to handle fireworks.

“She had gone and applied for her federal license, and they did her background check, and she got her federal certification,” Gray said.

Simmons left behind an 8-year-old son.  She will be buried in her hometown of Brunswick, Ga., Gray said.

Hill had recently started visiting the church. Family said he had looked forward to fishing during a free weekend on the Outer Banks.

Kirkland, an electrician who went by "Kirk," left behind three children and a grandchild. He had moved from Maine six months ago and was looking for work.

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

Charles Kirkland Sr. said his son was a bit of a rebel who hadn't always had a good relationship with his family, but he had come home recently to make amends.

"That relationship has become exactly what it needed to be. The (last) six months has been a healing process for this whole family," Charles Kirkland Sr. said.

Holland worked as the church's building and maintenance supervisor. Wilson recalled him opening the doors to the church every Sunday.

"Terry was my baby. Terry was my heart. He was more than just an employee," the pastor said.

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


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  • areadriver Jul 6, 2009

    Two words... NOMEX suits. Now, they won't keep you from being blown up, but they will shield from the flames. Something very wrong happened to make it all go up at the same time. I can't imagine a whole show of fireworks going off at the same time. I have been in the construction industry for many years, and been around explosives. There is certainly a specific way to handle this stuff. It's amazing, every year, around the fourth, how many Ryder trucks and U-Hauls are traversing our roads loaded with this stuff. Many probably without the proper placards and paperwork. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

  • jlh4jdj Jul 6, 2009

    One question for everyone on here. How well "trained" do you have to be to move boxes? It has been said that the head man had the experience and another was a professional electrician. That leaves three people to do the "grunt" work. Sounds about right to me. So far I have heard nothing about the set-up of personal that says that they were not prepared properly.

  • EverythingTicksMeOff Jul 6, 2009

    Yeah, sounds like NC needs to have a rule or two in place for stuff like this. I doubt static was involved though since it was hot and humid. But really, totally inexperienced people from the guy's church were hired. The truck blew up. I think you can safely draw the conclusion that this was a very very bad idea. I'll spare you the "hey y'all, watch this" jokes, but honestly, no permit or training required? No wonder there was finally an accident. And they tell us we should have our pathetic little fireworks at home....

  • OutOfTowner Jul 6, 2009

    I have been to Ocracoke and the parking lot next to Silver Lake there is where they seem to be setting up. It is next to the ferry and water and should be a safe place as long as the onlookers are across the lake. It is such a shame this happened and a needless loss of life. One can only wonder what sparked this explosion.

  • xchief661 Jul 6, 2009

    So many questions and such a heavy sadness for the families of these wonderful people who lost their lives. Our prayers and thoughts to these families for comfort and for peace. We are so sorry for your loss.

  • reality bites Jul 6, 2009

    rip to the victims and many thoughts and prayers to your family and friends!!!

  • BruiserB Jul 6, 2009

    Continued prayers for their families. Living in Goldsboro, this really hits home even more. Live every day to its fullest. God bless.

  • SweetB Jul 6, 2009

    Just very sad for everyone.

  • jlh4jdj Jul 6, 2009

    brand7976-Thank you for bringing perspective to this. People on here always want to jump on their high horses. Then they want to fuss if someone tries to charge higher prices to better train or what not. I have been around many "trained" fireworks guys and I can tell you most of them are very knowledgeable about what they do. I do know that most of the time problems arise because the venue decides it wants something different. Anyone on here who is heartless enough to try and throw someone who was following the established rules under the bus at a time like this really needs to check themselves. Insurance companies are much harsher on rules than Government agencies and the article says that this show was insured.

    -RIP to all these four. My prayers go out to the families has they morn.

  • brand7976 Jul 6, 2009

    There is no fireworks "license" in NC. An ATF background check is required, but that's usually shallow and skipped altogether during the 4th of July rush. As for training:well, not much is really needed. You assemble the mortars as sturdily as possible, drop the shell in the tube, and light the fuse by hand(in the majority of the shows in the US). Static was likely the cause in this incident. Better grounding/packaging might have helped, or perhaps not.

    The cost of the average small town fireworks show is about $15,000. The majority of that goes to insurance and the cost of the fireworks themselves. These individuals would have likely made less than $100 each. Maybe $200 if it was a large show. It takes 10 to 20 hours of preparation and setup time for a show, maybe more. You don't get "qualified, licensed" people to work for less than $10/hour. You get people that either enjoy the work or need money.

    In my opinion fireworks are an expensive/hazardous/polluting tradition.