Local News

ConAgra explosion claims fourth victim

Posted November 23, 2009

— An explosion that tore through a Slim Jim plant in Garner last summer has claimed a fourth victim.

A spokesman for the Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill said Monday that 55-year-old Curtis Ray Poppe died last Thursday, five months after the blast at the ConAgra plant in Garner.

An obituary posted by a Hickory funeral home said Poppe's family greeted friends there Sunday. Funeral services are planned in Poppe's home-state of Wisconsin next month.

Poppe returned from the U.S. Army in 1994 after 20 years of service, according to his obituary from Drum and Willis-Reynolds Funeral Homes.

ConAgra Fourth person in ConAgra explosion dies

The June 9 explosion at the facility caused part of the building's roof to collapse, killing three workers instantly and sending dozens of others to the hospital. The other workers who were killed were Barbara McLean Spears, 43, of Dunn; Rachel Mae Poston Pulley, 67, of Clayton; and Louis Junior Watson, 33, of Clayton.

Investigators believe contractors installing a water heater vented natural gas inside the building, leading to the blast.

Poppe, of Stony Point, and his employer, Energy System Analysts in Hickory were named as defendants in a lawsuit filed by two workers injured in the plant. The suit also names Energy System Analysts' president as Dean Poppe. It is unclear if the two men were related.

The lawsuit also named mechanical contractor Southern Industrial Constructors in Raleigh and the Pasadena, Calif.-based Jacobs Engineering Group.

Contractors who install fuel piping are licensed in North Carolina by the State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating, and Fire Sprinkler Contractors. The board's Web site showed no license issued to Poppe, Energy Systems Analysts or Jacobs Engineering.

Attorney David Stradley, who represents the workers, said Poppe's death does not change the lawsuit. Stradley said he is currently gathering depositions and hoping to visit the room where the explosion happened next month.

ConAgra laid off at least 300 employees because of the explosion.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Nov 24, 2009

    I noticed the very first post on this article was deleted yesterday. I've had that happen to more than one of my controversial posts.

  • shortcake53 Nov 24, 2009

    Im so sorry, my sympathies to his family. God grant him rest.

  • pulstar40 Nov 24, 2009

    How sad. Burn injuries are horrible and my heart goes out to his family, to all the families of those who died before him, and to the survivors and their families who are still fighting to heal -- especially as we begin the holiday season.

  • retired state trooper Nov 23, 2009

    Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Poppe's family and friends as well as other survivors of this tragedy that are in a healing process now.

  • OSX Nov 23, 2009

    How sad... this guy put up a good fight. I will be praying for his family.

  • bob1974 Nov 23, 2009

    To Each His Own... the hospital just reported the death today so the media could not have known. If you READ the story you would know that.

  • To Each His Own Nov 23, 2009

    The man died Thursday and today is Monday...apparently the media has forgotten all about the ones still in the hospital, and/or still suffering every day. Way to stay on top of it WRAL... Just because you stopped reporting it doesn't mean it just went away.

  • Made In USA Nov 23, 2009

    We need to all take safety on the job very seriously. A simple mistake can be a killer. Employers need to be serious too. Examples are making sure all of their equipment and tools are routinely inspected and repairs are performed, and do so on a regular basis.

  • passport423 Nov 23, 2009

    Poor man! God bless!

  • wildcat Nov 23, 2009

    How sad. Where is OSHA in all of this?