TENINO, Wash.—An explosion at a fireworks plant in Washington state killed a 75-year-old man and injured two other employees, a Thurston County sheriff’s officer said.
The oldest man died while awaiting an airlift to a regional trauma centre, sheriff’s Lt. Greg Elwin said.
A 25-year-old man who was flown to a Seattle hospital with burns and trauma and a 52-year-old man taken to a nearby hospital.
The explosion and fire at Entertainment Fireworks, Inc. south of Olympia, Wash., destroyed a cloth-walled working area and part of a large box truck, Elwin said.
The man who died was a long-time company employee, the sheriff’s spokesperson said.
Thurston County coroner Gary Warnock said he had not yet released the man’s name pending notification of relatives.
Representatives from the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the state Department of Labor and Industries are investigating.
“Right now this appears to be non-criminal and non-intentional—an unfortunate accident related to this type of business,” Elwin said.
The company produces professional fireworks shows around the region.
Workers were preparing shells for shipping, but the cause of the explosion is unknown, Ken Julian, Entertainment Fireworks vice-president of operations, said in a statement.
On its website, Entertainment Fireworks says it’s the largest fireworks company based in Washington.
More people could have been hurt and more buildings damaged if the company hadn’t been following regulations that require fireworks transfers to happen away from other buildings and other explosives, Elwin said.
“We are a small company where everyone works together—it’s like a family,” Julian said in his statement.
“When something like this happens, it is devastating. We have been in business more than 16 years and nothing like this has ever happened as safety is our number one priority and we pride ourselves on our highly qualified staff.”
The company is licensed by the state and federal governments, and is “a very reputable fireworks firm,” said Brennan Phillips, an ATF explosives officer in Seattle.
“They’ve been here a long time, and generally have a good safety record.”