Local News

Workers Still Scarred By West Pharmaceuticals Explosion

Posted November 9, 2006 6:36 a.m. EST

— Almost four years after a plant explosion ripped through a factory in the heart of Lenoir County, scars remain.

Six people died and 40 more were injured at the West Pharmaceutical plant on Jan. 29, 2003, when dust inside the plant ignited.

Robert Fuller was severely burned inside the plant. After multiple surgeries, he still has physical and emotional scars.

"It makes you think back about all the people you've lost, sometimes the dreams," Fuller said Thursday, when federal regulators announced new rules to reduce the chance of future dust-related explosions.

"I really get kind of upset about it, you know, to know that someone could have prevented something that is going to affect you for the rest of your life," he said. "Every time I look at myself in the mirror, I'm going to know I've been through something."

Fuller said he will never work in another plant, but he passes the remains of the former West Pharmaceuticals building daily. The rusted and overgrown shell has remained standing because a class-action lawsuit prevented the company from tearing it down.

A judge recently gave the company permission to start clearing the site, and crews are already assessing the building to determine how best to proceed.

"Some day, I'll ride by and just stop, pull over to the side of the road, and look at it. But I don't look at it long," said Fuller, who is part of the class-action lawsuit.