Local News

State cites firm in fatal Ocracoke fireworks blast

Posted December 11, 2009 3:17 p.m. EST
Updated December 11, 2009 4:00 p.m. EST

— The state Department of Labor cited a pyrotechnics firm Friday for safety violations in a July 4 fireworks explosion on Ocracoke Island that killed four people.

Catawba, S.C.-based Melrose South Pyrotechnics was fined $44,800 after inspectors noted 11 workplace safety violations. The company has 15 business days to appeal the inspectors' findings.

Five people from Wayne County were contracted by Melrose to set up the fireworks display for an Independence Day celebration on Ocracoke Island. The crew parked a truck loaded with fireworks and were preparing to work on the fireworks' fuses when the explosion happened.

Terry Holland, 49, Mark Hill, 21, Charles Kirkland Jr., 49, and Lisa Simmons, 41, were killed in the blast. Martez Holland, 27, the nephew of Terry Holland, survived, but suffered burns on 20 percent of his body, including his face and arms.

State and federal officials ruled the explosion accidental.

Department of Labor inspectors determined that Melrose allowed the workers to work on the fireworks inside the cargo area of a rental truck and that the workers had items like a cigarette lighter, a motorcycle battery and spark-inducing tools with them at the time.

The inspectors also cited the company for not providing the workers with devices to reduce static electricity or a fire extinguisher, for not inspecting the fireworks beforehand to determine if they were faulty and for not training the workers on the hazards of working with fireworks.

The incident prompted state lawmakers to tighten the rules for who is allowed to set up fireworks displays. People now have to pass an exam, completed training and assisted in other fireworks shows before they can obtain a permit to set up a show.