Tip: Fatal fireworks explosion was company's third

Tip: Fatal fireworks explosion was company's third

To see a slideshow of the explosion

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by By STUART WATSON / NewsChannel 36 E-mail Stuart:

Bio | Email | Follow: @stuartwcnc

WCNC.com

Posted on July 8, 2009 at 6:21 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 1 at 6:44 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- You've probably heard about the July 4 fireworks explosion on Ocracoke Island, NC that killed four workers. Early on, we made the connection to another fireworks explosion death involving the same company, Melrose South Pyrotechnics. So we knew about five deaths. But then a viewer who lives near the fireworks company e-mailed us to tip us to yet another fatal explosion involving the same company.

A librarian at our news partner, the Charlotte Observer, checked the archive and we checked our own videotape archive and sure enough the tipster was right.

This is the THIRD fatal explosion for the company - bringing the total number of deaths to seven.

On Friday afternoon June 25, 1993, a fireworks explosion killed two workers. According to the South Carolina Secretary of State's website, back then the company was called Southern Fireworks, Inc. According to York County Emergency Management Director Cotton Howell, Southern Fireworks "magazine" blew up. Howell says the magazine was located on the southeast corner of Harmony Road and Hall Spencer Road in the Harmony Community. 21-year old Clemson student Chris Kyber and 17-year old Rock Hill High School student Jamie Hoffman died in the explosion and fire.

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According to the Secretary of State's records, on November 5, 1993, within 6 months of the fatal blast, Southern Fireworks Inc. legally changed its name to Melrose South Pyrotechnics, Howell says new owners bought the company.

On July 19, 2001 a massive fireworks explosion at the Melrose South Pyrotechnics plant on U-S 21 in Chester County killed 22-year old Brett Ringer, a recent Clemson University graduate. Melrose South Pyrotechnics later paid more than $20,000 in fines for safety violations in connection with the explosion.

In spite of three fatal accidents killing seven workers at the same company, a spokesman for North Carolina's OSHA office says the state does not take into account deaths in other states when deciding whether to cite the company or how much to fine it for the most recent fatal blast. The spokesman says a decision in that case could take three to six months.

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