Local News

N.C. fire marshal wants pyrotechnic regulations

Posted July 6, 2009 11:47 p.m. EDT
Updated July 7, 2009 9:14 p.m. EDT

— As a memorial is planned for four people killed in a fireworks explosion on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner and Fire Marshal Wayne Goodwin says he is concerned that there are no state laws requiring training or certification for people who set off large-scale firework displays.

"Even the smallest explosive charge can seriously maim and kill,” Goodwin said.

The accidental explosion of a truck carrying fireworks on Ocracoke Island over the weekend brought the issue to light for Goodwin. A crew of four men and one woman was on or near the truck when the explosion occurred shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday.

Mark Hill, 21; Terry Holland, 49; Lisa Simmons, 41; and Charles Kirkland Jr., all residents of Wayne County, were killed.

The lone survivor, whose name hasn't been released, had burns on 20 percent of his body and was listed in fair condition Monday at the North Carolina Jaycees Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

It is still not clear what went wrong as the crew, hired by Melrose South Pyrotechnics, set up to do the town's fireworks. But Goodwin says new state laws could put more pyrotechnic safeguards in place.

"(We need laws) that provide certification and appropriate training for persons who are going to display fireworks and any explosives for that matter,” Goodwin said.

Lawsonville resident Glenn Knox, who has been in the pyrotechnics business for nearly 30 years, also says legislation is desperately needed.

"(I am) absolutely for it. We have been pushing for it for years," said Knox, with Piedmont Pyrotechnics.

Knox says all you need to produce a large-scale fireworks is a permit from area leaders and the OK from a fire marshal where the pyrotechnics will be set off.

He also says purchasing professional-level fireworks requires only that you be over 21 years old and have a clean criminal record.

The pastor of a church where the firework blast victims attended said Holland had experience with pyrotechnic displays, and Simmons' mother said her daughter had passed a federal background check to handle fireworks.