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Victim says fireworks blast was without warning

Posted July 7, 2009
Updated July 8, 2009

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— The lone survivor of a fireworks explosion that killed four people over the weekend said Tuesday that the blast happened without much warning and that he was the only one who was able to get off the truck before it blew up.

Martez Holland, 27, was one of five people from Wayne County contracted by South Carolina-based Melrose South Pyrotechnics to set up the fireworks display for Saturday's Independence Day celebration on Ocracoke Island.

Questions linger in fatal fireworks explosion Questions linger in fatal fireworks explosion

"The only thing I heard was a big spark, a big boom, and then I jumped off the truck," said Holland, who suffered burns on 20 percent of his body, including his face and arms.

He was listed in fair condition Tuesday afternoon at the North Carolina Jaycees Burn Center at UNC Hospitals.

Holland said he and the crew had parked the truck Saturday morning and were getting ready to work on the fireworks' fuses when the explosion happened.

Holland's uncle, Terry Holland, 49; Mark Hill, 21; Charles Kirkland Jr., 49; and Lisa Simmons, 41, were in the center of the truck at the time of the explosion, Martez Holland said.

Terry Holland had burns on 100 percent of his body – injuries that burn center director Dr. Bruce Cairns described as "just not survivable."

At least two of the victims, Terry Holland and Simmons, were both trained to handle fireworks, family members said.

State and federal officials ruled the explosion accidental.

Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, however, said fireworks go through a series of tests and that they do not "just mass explode."

"I think what we're going to find out is that the personnel, the pyrotechnic crew, most likely violated some very well known industry-wide safety procedure," she said.

David Davis, deputy chief of operations for the Wake Forest Fire Department, who has also been responsible for fireworks shows for more than 30 years, said there could have possibly been an ignition source somewhere that could have sparked the fire.

"A battery could have fallen over inside the truck – anything that has to do with electricity," he said. "It's got to be a spark."

Federal investigators have not released further details about the blast.

Meanwhile, memorial services have been planned for the victims.

A visitation for Hill was scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Shackleford Funeral Home in Fremont.

Kirkland's funeral is Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Howell's Funeral Home in Goldsboro. Terry Holland's funeral is 1 p.m. Friday at the Lord's Table Church in Goldsboro.

Arrangements for Simmons were not finalized as of Tuesday evening, but her funeral was set for 1 p.m. Friday in Georgia. A memorial service at the Lord's Table Church is expected next week.

The Lord's Table Church, where some of the victims attended, has set up a fund to benefit the victims' families. Donations can be made by calling 919-751-8188 or by mailing checks payable to The Ocracoke Fireworks Disaster Fund, c/o The Lord's Table, P.O. Box 11049, Goldsboro, N.C. 27532.

12 Comments

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  • wattsun Jul 9, 2009

    James,
    While what you are saying is true.

    "A RF (radio frequency radiation) cannot cause explosions of this nature."

    A spark from the battery of the cell phone itself could.
    There are many documented cases of cell phones sparking fires at gas pumps.

    If there was some breech in the material during long transportation which caused the powder to be trapped in an unventilated box truck then a spark from a cell phone is very possible.

  • concerncitizen Jul 9, 2009

    What is it Judge Judy says? "If it don't make sense, then it ain't true" Something set off the fireworks! Maybe this person doesn't really know what it was? Maybe it was him? Maybe he is just scared to say for some other reason? Who know? Only him? I repeat! Something set off the fireworks, and it takes a spark!

  • james27613 Jul 8, 2009

    hi, RF (radio frequency radiation) cannot cause explosions of this nature.

    The reason you see Blasting Zone, Turn off Radio is to prevent
    two way radio communications for the Blast crew to continue without interruption or interference.

  • james27613 Jul 8, 2009

    Static electricity could be one reason for the explosion.

    Where I lived in New York, Long Island, Brookhaven Township,
    home of the famous Grucci family, a tragic explosion that
    was triggered by static electricity took the lives of the founders son and niece in 1983.

    http://www.grucci.com/indexhome.html

  • iamyeary Jul 8, 2009

    Friction is a possibility... Just pulling or pushing a heavy object on a metal surface could also produce a spark. Trained or not, this is a Top 10 most dangerous occupation.

  • TeamHatteras Jul 8, 2009

    "I wasn't aware that the vicitms were in the bed of the truck when it exploded." - carolinagirl75

    I don't think it was a "bed" of a truck, per say. I believe it was an enclosed box truck they were standing in the middle of.

  • EverythingTicksMeOff Jul 8, 2009

    Yep, fireworks don't just go boom. Something went wrong and it almost has to be caused by someone breaking a rule. I have to wonder. You have 5 people and only 2 are trained. Can those 2 people keep an eye on the other three 100% of the time and ensure that no one does something that would cause an accident. I'd have to think that your average person could easily do something wrong and haven't a clue that they should not have done it. I have to think that we need better oversight of this kind of activity. Perhaps have some sort of required quick "apprentice" training for the folks that get hired to help. Tragic accident, but I'll bet if they keep investigating, we will find it was preventable. If not, then how can you possibly allow people to load up a truck with fireworks if at any random time or place, it could simply blow up?

  • THANOS Jul 8, 2009

    "The lone survivor of a fireworks explosion that killed four people over the weekend said Tuesday that the blast happened without much warning..."

    Yes, because fireworks always give you a warning before the go off.

    Seriously?

  • wattsun Jul 8, 2009

    I would almost bet that they find out it was caused by a cell phone. tragic

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Jul 7, 2009

    Horrible tragedy. Prayers for this young man's recovery and the families of all those involved.

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