Federal investigators say the North Carolina fireworks accident on July 4 on Ocracoke Island, which resulted in the deaths of four crew members and another suffering serious personal injuries, was caused by exploding electric igniters as they were pushed into the fireworks.
According to a report from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, agents received the information from an interview on July 4 with an individual at the NC Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill. The report does not name the person, but 27-year-old Goldsboro resident Martez Holland was the blast’s lone survivor. He underwent treatment at the center. The report says the person questioned was heavily medicated, but seemed to be lucid and was able to answer questions.
According to the report, as the crew was pushing igniters into the “tails” of the fireworks, a small explosion occurred, which triggered a larger explosion. The ATF report called the explosion accidental. An investigation from the North Carolina Department of Labor is expected to conclude within four months.
Initially, the interviewee said that the crew had been working inside the truck due to the ground outside the fire department being wet. He said something partially intelligible about not wanting the fireworks to touch the ground, but not really being sure why they were working inside the truck. He said that after the larger explosion occurred, he jumped out of the back of the truck and ran. The four who died were closer to the fireworks accident.
According to Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, someone in charge should have been aware of the safety policy to always do such work outdoors in an area where there is egress. The victims were working for South Carolina-based Melrose South Pyrotechnics.