Local News

West Pharmaceuticals Draws $400,000 Fine

Posted July 16, 2003 11:19 a.m. EDT

— The company that owns the Kinston plant that exploded in January will have to pay up.

The settlement is the result of 86 violations the state

Department of Labor

found when it investigated the deadly explosion at

West Pharmaceuticals.

The explosion that killed four people will cost West Pharmaceuticals $400,000.

The violations pertain to electrical systems, employee training and combustible dust that trapped in the ceiling and exploded.

West will pay $100,000 in fines and pay $300,000 to local charities who helped on the day of the explosion.

Despite the loss of life and devastating damage, investigators said safety was a priority at West.

"The many programs that they had very likely contributed to a large amount of people getting out of that facilty with fewer injuries than would have occurred without those precautions in place," said Kevin Beauregard of the

Labor Department.

Former employees of the plant agreed. A handful attended the Labor Department announcement.

Many said they were more concerned about friends they lost than finding fault.

"I don't think anybody out there knew the dust was going to explode," said Gary Purvis.

The Labor Department originally issued $602,000 in fines. West negotiated that down to the $400,000. It is building a new plant in Kinston, and it will use all of the safest technology in that plant.

The survivor who was most seriously injured in the Kinston explosion is still recovering.

Jim Edwards was released from the Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill last month. He is at a rehabilitation center across the street.

The blast at West Pharmaceuticals happened a floor below Edwards, directly under his feet. Although blind now, Edwards says he's grateful for the progress he's made.

His philosophy now: live one day at a time.