An explosion at a Tennessee ammunition plant killed one person and injured three others and now a special investigative team is starting an inquiry.
The blast Wednesday at the Rio Ammunition plant in McEwen, TN, about 55 miles west of Nashville, killed Rodney Edwards and critically injured Joey Clark, who is undergoing treatment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Thursday. A woman whom authorities have not yet publicly identified was in stable condition, and another man discharged.
U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) spokesman Michael Knight said local officials spent Thursday clearing the area around the plant of any live ammunition to bring in heavy equipment and stabilize the walls. Once they were able to stabilize the building, the ATF’s National Response Team planned to begin its investigation.
A news release from parent company Maxam said Rio Ammunition produces shotgun cartridges, and the blast occurred during the company’s cartridge loading operations. The release said Rio Ammunition started its own internal query and is cooperating with the law enforcement investigation.
ATF spokesman Knight said the company has federal licenses to manufacture firearms and explosives. He said the ATF regulates the cartridge manufacturing, making sure the company complies with standards. The plant undergoes inspection every two years, Knight said, and a preliminary investigation has not turned up any previous violations.
The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) regulates worker safety in the state, but spokesman Jeff Hentschel said the agency has never inspected the plant. That’s because TOSHA has received no safety complaints about Rio Ammunition, and the plant has not yet come up for random inspection. Records show the company received a certificate of authority from the Tennessee Secretary of State in 2009, a prerequisite to doing business in the state.
Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency Director Odell Poyner has said they received reports about 20 employees were in the building at the time of the explosion, which blew out two of the walls and a large portion of the roof.
Firefighters from Humphreys and Hickman counties battled the blaze at the plant, located in a rural area right near the line dividing the counties, Poyner said. The fire ignited several brush fires in a nearby forested area.