Local News

Candlelight vigil remembers ConAgra employees

Posted June 12, 2009 8:05 p.m. EDT
Updated June 12, 2009 11:09 p.m. EDT

— Local clergy and officials remembered killed and injured ConAgra Foods employees during a candlelight vigil Friday night at Wake Baptist Grove Church, at 302 E Main St.

Employee Tony Curtis was in the Con Agra plant during the explosion. The stairs he was standing on disappeared underneath him.

Curtis called the service “closure.”

“We feel the pain and we cannot be the same ever again,” said Rev. Dr. T.K. Leathers, pastor of Mount Vernon Christian Church in Clayton.

Gov. Beverly Perdue’s spokesman Reginald Wells read a letter from the governor.

“I pray you will find peace and healing,” the letter stated.“You’re not alone in your sadness.”

“We will grieve together. We will heal together,” Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said.

ConAgra Foods plant manager Mark Rauendahn also spoke at the service.

Second District Congressman Bob Etheridge toured the plant site before attending the community vigil. He looks forward to a day when employees are back on the job.

"There is a great market for the product they made and we want it made right here," Etheridge said.

About 300 employees were in the ConAgra Foods plant at the time of the Tuesday morning explosion, which blew out a wall and punched holes in the roof, sparked small fires and ruptured the plant's ammonia lines.

Dozens of workers and contractors were injured, and three workers – Barbara McLean Spears, 43, of Dunn; Rachel Mae Poston-Pulley, 67, of Clayton; and Louis Junior Watson, 33, of Clayton, – were killed.

Funerals have been scheduled for Spears and the other two victims: Rachel Mae Poston Pulley, 67, and Louis Junior Watson, 33, both of Clayton.

Spears' funeral will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at Cape Fear Regional Center in Erwin. Pulley's will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at Springfield Baptist Church in Raleigh. Watson's will be at 11 a.m. Monday in the Johnston Community College auditorium.

Four ConAgra workers remained in critical condition Friday in the North Carolina Jaycees Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. Another worker was in fair condition, and two others were in good condition at the burn center.

One of the critically burned patients was identified Thursday as Anthony Elliott, but no other information about him was released.

The Town of Garner plans a moment of silence on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. in memory of the victims of the plant explosion. The one-minute long tribute will also be observed at ConAgra Foods locations across the nation.

Williams will also lead an observance at Lake Benson Park Amphitheater at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, Garner officials said.