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Survivors Of Kinston Factory Blast Improve

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The conditions of several people critically burned in a Kinston plant explosion continue to improve.

As of 3 p.m. Monday, Robert Fuller and Javier T. Xochicale are listed in fair condition at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center.

David Williams is listed in good condition at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center.

Five other burn victims at the hospital remained in critical condition. They are James Hardison, Milton Murrell, Kenneth W. Simien, James (Jim) Edwards and Allen Grant.

Sharedenna M. Ratliff was released from the hospital Thursday.

Doctors said all of the patients face a long, painful road to recovery. Dr. Michael Peck said the biggest concern right now is their risk of infection.

"We've been very fortunate because the nine survivors from the Kinston explosion have actually done quite well considering the injuries they sustained," Peck said. "All of them had smoke inhalation injury, all of them had injury to the lungs because of the thick cloud of black material that they inhaled."

Investigators believe a mix of dust and air fueled the Jan. 29 explosion at the medical fittings factory, killing four workers and sparking a fire that burned for days.

Inspectors said they have not determined what kind of industrial dust fueled the explosion or what sparked it.

Doctors said many of patients will remain at the hospital for at least two months.

The emotional toll on families cannot be measured.

"It's hard to look at someone that in no way resembles your son and to talk to him like things are normal... because they're not," said Red Edwards.

Edwards' son, Jim, 45, worked at West Pharmaceuticals for more than 20 years. He suffered burns over 60 percent of his body, and his recovery is expected to take two years.

"I've seen the hand of God through all of this and he's really taking care of him," Edwards said.

Edwards said the bond between him and his son has always been close. He said he believes this experience will only strengthen it.

"He'll always be my baby boy. He's been a good boy," he said.

Edwards' family said despite what happened, they consider it a blessing Jim survived the blast.

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