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Some Kinston Plant Employees Heading To Nebraska For Work

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KINSTON, N.C. — About 60 employees of West Pharmaceuticals are on a bus Friday headed to jobs at the company's other factories in Nebraska. They have been out of work for three weeks after dust sparked an explosion that killed five of their co-workers.

Sherwood and Cynthia Smith will celebrate their 30th anniversary next month, but a bus is about to put 1,000 miles between them.

"This is the first time we've been apart, so it's going to be all right. It's going to be fine," Sherwood said.

"It's kind of hard to leave, but something we'll have to get used to. Hopefully, not for long, but as long as it takes," Cynthia said.

West Pharmaceutical Services is giving every employee a chance to work at one of its other plants for now. Even if officials can rebuild in the plant in Lenoir County, it could take months before operations resume.

County officials have identified land that is available for building a new plant as well as existing buildings to which the company can relocate.

Most of the employees said they are glad they are getting a chance to get back to work now.

"I've been with West company for 25 years and I'm interested in staying with the company. They've been good to me and I plan on hanging on as long as I can," employee Terry Baker said.

"It's something that we have to do. We don't really have a choice about it. The company's been good to him and we want to continue on," said Treva Baker, Terry's wife.

West Pharmaceutical Services also has a plant in Florida. Another busload of employees will travel there in a couple of weeks.

Employees who agreed to travel say they are receiving bonus pay and benefits. Some say they will come home to visit every few weeks. Five employees injured in the fire remain hospitalized at the Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill.

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