Deadly fireworks explosion on Ocracoke Island

July 5, 2009 8:50:59 AM PDT
Hyde County authorities and federal agents are investigating a fireworks explosion that killed four people Saturday at the dock in Ocracoke Village.Shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday, there was an explosion in the parking lot of the NCCAT campus.

Hyde County spokeswoman Jamie Tunnel said a truck carrying fireworks exploded on the Ocracoke Island docks. The fireworks were for a celebration the island holds each July 4th.

The truck's five-member crew was on or around the vehicle when it exploded. One crew member was killed and four were critically injured and taken to the Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill. Three additional crew members died at the hospital -- bringing the death toll to four.

Two volunteer firemen were treated for inhalation and exhaustion.

"The Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department and Hyde County EMS were here and promptly responded en masse immediately after the incident", said Jane Hodges, Hyde County interim emergency manager. "There was an immediate response from Hyde County Sheriff's Department, the National Park Service, NC DOT Ferry Division, Marine Fisheries, and volunteers to handle the crowds and assess the situation. Fortunately, there were three doctors including a medical examiner and volunteer nurses who responded immediately along with the staff of the Ocracoke Health Center and Hyde County EMS."

Representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) Company spent Saturday evaluating the scene.

Anchorage Marina dock master Robert Raborn said the explosion was heard across Ocracoke village. He watched numerous medical helicopters fly in.

Raborn said from his vantage point 200 yards away, it looked like 40 minutes worth of fireworks went off in four seconds.

Ferry service to the island is suspended to public travel and limited to emergency personnel. The island is only reachable by ferry.

The Hatteras Island ferry was temporarily suspended but is now open and Highway 12 is clear from an earlier, unrelated wreck.

The south dock on Ocracoke Island for the Swan Quarter and Cedar Island ferries remains closed until the scene is cleared. The hours will be extended to accommodate all travelers who had reservations and those in the stand-by lanes.

The Hatteras to Ocracoke route is open and operating on its normal schedule.

Ocracoke Island is the southernmost inhabited island on the Outer Banks, about two hours from the mainland.


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