ATF Investigates Explosions At Kilgore Plant; One Hurt

(Toone, TN) The ATF is back at the Kilgore Flares Plant in Hardeman County.

Saturday, two explosions happened at the facility, though the second was a “controlled explosion,” according to the ATF.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Public Information Officer Special Agent Michael P. Knight told WREG, “a federal search warrant was executed at the business on Sunday after Kilgore wouldn’t let investigators onto the plant.”

Knight said Kilgore wanted to protect trade secrets first before anyone came in, and it does happen from time to time.

“The ATF National Response Team has been activated and will begin processing the scene Sunday afternoon,” said Knight. The team is composed of bomb technicians, fire experts, chemists and engineers from across the country.

Sunday, the Tennessee Bomb and Arson Department borrowed the highway patrol’s helicopter to take aerial pictures of the property.

One employee was injured in the first explosion at the plant which is located in Toone, TN Saturday morning.

The employee, Michael Chism, was flown to The MED to be treated for severe burns over 90 percent of his body.

The explosion shook Cardarius Hill’s house and also shook his family to its core. Chism is Hill’s cousin.

“They say they don’t know if he is going to make it or not,” said Hill.

Most of Michael Chism’s family gathered near his hospital bed.

“He’s in critical condition at The MED, at the burn unit,” said Hardeman County Sheriff John Doolen.

Other measures included waiting in the parking lot.

“It’s bad. They need to shut Kilgore down. That’s what they need to do,” said another one of Chism’s cousins.

The ATF said Kilgore has had several explosions with fatalities in the last decade.

A death in 2001 led OSHA to fine the plant $200,000 for workplace violations. OSHA is one several agencies investigating the explosion Sunday.

The plant makes flares for the military. It is the largest employer in Toone.

Daphne Woods’ sister was hurt in a 2010 explosion at the plant. Three fourths of her body was burned. Her sister survived, and wants the Chism family to know there is hope.

“I was going through the same thing they were going through. I got a 7-year-old niece. She asked me, ‘Is mommy going to die?’ said Woods. “All the got to do is hope and pray.”

The ATF said it should have answers by Tuesday morning.

Kilgore released a statement saying it will cooperate fully with federal, state and local authorities to get to the bottom of what happened.


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