JAN. 29–KINSTON, N.C.–An explosion and fire rocked a pharmaceutical company plant Wednesday afternoon. At least three people were critically injured and the city manager said some people could have been trapped in the wreckage.
A man who lives near the West Pharmaceutical plant said debris flew in the air and the woods behind the plant were also on fire.
Kinston City Manager Ralph Clark told CNN that it appeared ”there are still a number of people trapped in the plant.”
The explosion was reported at 1:27 p.m., says Lee Pearson of the Highway Patrol office in Williamston. The cause was not immediately known.
”We’ve got a lot of units out there,” he adds.
A spokeswoman at Lenoir Memorial Hospital ithree people were at the hospital in critical condition with burns and more victims were expected. The University of North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill was also told to expect patients, but given no specifics.
Lee Edwards, who lives about a tenth of a mile from the plant, told The Associated Press that debris from two 800-foot water towers flew in the air.
”All I can see I just the black smoke, just billowing up in the air. I mean, the whole sky is black,” he said. ”It exploded. It knocked me over.”
”That whole building is gone. There’s no saving any part of that building,” he said.
Television aerial footage of showed flames and smoke still shooting up more than an hour after the fire broke out.
West Pharmaceutical Services Inc. is a manufacturer of pharmaceutical delivery and medical devices. The company’s Web site said its Kinston plant employs about 225 people producing syringe plungers and IV supplies.
A spokeswoman at the company’s headquarters in Lionville, Pa., had no immediate comment.
Kinston is a city of about 25,000 in east-central North Carolina.