Local News

Funeral held for third plant explosion victim

Posted June 15, 2009 5:27 a.m. EDT
Updated June 15, 2009 7:07 p.m. EDT

— The third and final funeral for the victims of a Garner plant explosion was held Monday.

Hundred of people gathered at Johnston Community College to say goodbye to Louis Junior Watson, 33, of Clayton.

The blast last Tuesday at the ConAgra Foods plant killed Watson, Rachel Mae Poston Pulley, 67, of Clayton, and Barbara McLean Spears, 43, of Dunn.

Co-workers told Watson's family that he died trying to help Spears, who had fallen, escape the plant. The building caved in on both them.

"That's Lewis – always looking to help somebody. (He) put others before him, put someone else first," co-worker Kelly Prince said.

"It's going to take not only this day but a lifetime trying to explain the goodness of his heart, what kind of man he was," friend Gregory Terry said.

The funeral was moved to the community college auditorium because St. Peters Disciples of Christ Church in Smithfield, where Watson was active, couldn't hold everyone they expect for his funeral.

The Sunday funerals of Pulley and Spears also drew hundreds of mourners.

Watson had worked at ConAgra Foods for nearly 15 years, was a volunteer on the plant's safety team and also ran a lawn service.

He and his wife, Terri, would have celebrated their wedding anniversary Sunday. They have a 14-year-old son and 16-year-old and 18-year-old daughters.

“He loved spending time with me,” Terri Watson said. “He always made time for us.”

Investigators have determined that a natural gas leak in the packaging area of the plant, which makes Slim Jim beef jerky products, sparked the explosion.

Dozens of workers were injured, and four remain in critical condition in the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

"Things just won't be the same, but we just have to put God first and just believe everything happens for a reason," Prince said.

Garner officials plan to hold a moment of silence at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday to mark the one-week anniversary of the blast.

A fund established by ConAgra to support the Garner workers has raised more than $132,000 so far.