Explosion at fireworks company kills 1, injures 2

(Photo: KCPQ-TV)

TENINO, Wash. -- A massive explosion Wednesday morning at a fireworks factory in Thurston County killed 1 employee and injured 2 others.

The explosion happened just before 10 o’clock Wednesday morning near Tenino.

Ken Julian, an executive from Entertainment Fireworks, Inc., says the accident is an awful tragedy.

“Everybody in the building has done this thousands of times and this is just one of those one of a million type occurrences,” said Julian.

The blast happened in a shed in the rear section of the property on Reeder Road. The explosion destroyed the shed and a rental truck parked nearby.

Neighbors said they felt the grown tremble.

“I heard boom-boom-boom, and I thought they’re just testing things again,” said neighbor Mark Rorbik. “But I looked out the window and it was just a sudden all hell was breaking loose.”

Investigators said 4 people were loading fireworks into a truck when somehow one ignited causing an explosive chain reaction.

Two employees were rushed to local hospitals, but Julian says 74-year-old employee Bill Hill didn’t survive the blast.

So far Thurston County Sheriff’s deputies haven't discovered any criminal activity connected to the blast. Now the investigation shifts to the ATF who are searching for an exact cause.

“Static electricity is something we’re always concerned about in an around explosives,” said ATF investigator Brennan Phillips. “Especially when we have electrical initiation systems.”

Crews had been busy assembling firework shows for holiday festivals across 5 western states but now that work has now come to a standstill.

Julian says they’ll work hard to make sure their customers receive fireworks on time for the 4th of July.

“Bill had three passions; one was fireworks, one was auto racing, one was painting,” said Julian. “He would want us to make a lot of people happy on the 4th.”

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries cited by the company back in 2005 for a violation, but there have not been any other citations since.

Click here for more information about fireworks licensing and regulations >>