Local News

Fireworks explosion victims attended same church

Posted July 6, 2009 5:50 a.m. EDT
Updated July 6, 2009 6:19 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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.

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."