State News

Coast Guard to award medals for work in Ocracoke fireworks blast

Posted June 4, 2010 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated June 4, 2010 6:24 a.m. EDT

— Two Coast Guard petty officers will be honored for their actions when a fireworks truck exploded on Ocracoke Island last Fourth of July, killing four people and injuring one.

The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., reported that Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Buchanan will receive the Coast Guard Medal, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven Atkinson will receive a Coast Guard Commendation Medal. They will receive the medals in a ceremony Friday afternoon at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras.

The two men entered the ferry terminal where the blast occurred and helped get injured people away from the truck that exploded.

The Coast Guard says Buchanan gave first aid to the victims and assisted other rescue workers. Atkinson helped extinguish fires around the scene and kept onlookers away.

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, was severely burned but survived.

The crew was all from Wayne County and attended the same church, The Lord's Table Church in Goldsboro. They had been privately contracted by Catawba, S.C.-based Melrose South Pyrotechnics to deliver and set up fireworks for Ocracoke's Independence Day celebration.

Investigators determined that crew members were in the truck's cargo area preparing to work on the fireworks' fuses and had potential ignition sources – including a cigarette lighter, motorcycle battery and spark-inducing tools – with them when the explosion occurred.

In the aftermath, the state Department of Labor fined Melrose Pyrotechnics $44,800 for safety violations, and state lawmakers toughened rules regulating who can set up fireworks displays.

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Information from: The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va.