Two women workers died Friday in an explosion at Ultratec, a fireworks manufacturer in Owens Cross Roads, AL.
Marie Sanderson, of Union Grove, died at the scene, according to Sgt. Brian Chaffin with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office. Aimee Cothran, of Huntsville, died at Huntsville Hospital, Chaffin said. Two other people suffered serious injuries in the explosion.
One of the injured is McKenna Whorton, daughter of State Rep. Ritchie Whorton (R-Owens Cross Roads), said David Pinkleton, an official with the Madison County Republican Party. She ended up flown to the UAB Burn Center with severe burns. A man was also severely injured, and undergoing treatment at Huntsville Hospital Friday evening.
Whorton has second-degree burns to her face and less serious burns to her hands and legs, Pinkleton said. In addition, two other people suffered minor burns, according to Chaffin.
The explosion occurred at 11:19 a.m. at the facility on Richard Brannum Drive. By 4 p.m. hazmat units had left the scene. It occurred during a mixing process during the manufacture of fireworks. Chaffin said there were no environmental concerns following an evaluation by the hazmat units.
A witness at the scene said she was 1 mile away from the facility and the explosion shook her car as she was pulling out of her driveway.
The state fire marshal, FBI and Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms responded to the scene, Chaffin said.
Explosion incidents are not unusual at the fireworks facility, neighbors said. A man who lives a half-mile from the business said in the five years he’s lived there he can recall at least three major incidents. There was a fire at the location in 2010, and an explosion in 2013, though the name and spelling of the business has changed since then.
“There have been some incidents in the past,” Chaffin said. “I don’t have confirmed dates or what happened on those. I’m sure that will be part of the investigation we will discuss with the ATF and other agencies. That comes several days later. But we have had incidents in the past here of a similar nature.”
There are multiple small buildings at the facility but Chaffin said he did not know how many of the buildings suffered damage. The building where the explosion occurred appeared to have a hole in the roof.