A deadly explosion at a Tennessee ammunition plant was an accident, according to a preliminary investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
ATF spokesman Michael Knight said it will now be up to the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) to determine fault and whether there were any safety violations at the plant.
The explosion Wednesday afternoon at the Rio Ammunition plant in McEwen, TN, about 55 miles west of Nashville, killed Rodney Edwards and injured three others. Joey Clark was in stable condition at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Saturday. The other two victims ended up discharged earlier in the week.
A news release from Rio parent company Maxam said the Tennessee plant produced shotgun cartridges, and the blast occurred during the company’s cartridge loading operations.
Just after the blast, local officials spent the day clearing the area around the plant of any live ammunition to bring in heavy equipment and stabilize the walls. Once they stabilized the building, the ATF’s National Response Team began its investigation.
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.
TOSHA 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.
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, said Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency Director Odell Poyner.