Man Burned in Kilgore Explosion Dies

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(Toone, TN) The man who was severely burned in an explosion Saturday at the Kilgore Flares plant in Toone has died.

According to a family friend, Michael Chism died Monday night at The MED.

Doctors say he suffered third degree burns over 90% of his body.

On Monday, dozens of state and federal agents worked together to find out what caused Saturday's explosion.

Over the weekend, Hardeman County deputies and state agents had to get a federal search warrant to gain access to the property.

Sheriff John Doolen said local and state agents stood in the parking lot for hours.

He said he doesn't know what plant managers were doing inside the plant after the first explosion happened until they got the warrant.

"They pretty much just told us they were not going to allow entry," said Doolen.

Doolen said this isn't the first time Kilgore wouldn't let them in, even though the plant told WREG they are cooperating with federal, state, and local agencies.

Doolen said Kilgore gave them several reasons why they kept authorities out, including security, but he doesn't believe all of them.

"However, I did have one [deputy] that was the first responder that was in the facility. He was was instructed not to leave until he was relieved by the ATF," said Doolen.

WREG is told the deputy was escorted by Kilgore security.

Monday, the ATF along with several other state agencies pieced together evidence to find out whether the explosion was accidental or criminal.

"Over the last ten years, there have been multiple, multiple incidents with multiple injuries," said an ATF spokesperson.

WREG uncovered safety records that show in the past 25 years, five employees died at Kilgore and there were even more injuries.

The latest and largest blast was in 2010 when a flash fire severely burned six people.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA, cited the plant with 14 workplace violations and a $348,000 fine.

A spokesperson told WREG some were repeat problems and the investigation is "unresolved."

They have inspected the plant since that fire, but couldn't say how many times.

"It should be a lot safer. Something should be done," said a Toone resident.

Not all who live in the town want the plant the close - it's the largest employer in the county, and it makes flares for the military.

They are asking for a safer workplace, and that us what OSHA and several other state agencies hopes to do.

OSHA said its investigation could take up to two months.

At that time, they will know if the plant has fixed past violations.

It cannot permanently close a plant, but can temporarily shut it down or hit it with fines until the problems are fixed.

Chemring, Kilgore's parent company from the U.K., said it pumped millions of dollars into safety improvements in 2001.

News Channel 3 called to speak with plant managers Monday to find out where that money went, but a security guard who answered the phone said employees had the day off.

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