07/08/09 — Fifth explosion victim faces uphill struggle

View Archive

Fifth explosion victim faces uphill struggle

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 8, 2009 1:43 PM

While the sole survivor of a July 4 fireworks explosion faces what could be a lifetime of therapy, funeral services for the four who died begin today and a relief fund for surviving family members is in the works.

A team of five people with ties to The Lord's Table church in Goldsboro was unloading a truck of fireworks for a display Saturday night on Ocracoke Island when the explosion occurred.

Martez Holland, 27, of Goldsboro, was reportedly in the back of the truck when the blast happened. He was able to jump off the truck, where he was knocked out until paramedics arrived. He received third-degree burns on 20 percent of his body, most extensively to his arms and face.

Charles "Kirk" Kirkland, Jr., 49, died instantly. Mark Hill, 21, and Lisa Simmons, 41, were taken to Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville, where they died. Holland's uncle, Terry Holland, 50, was flown to the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals, where he later died.

On Tuesday, Martez Holland fielded questions from a hospital bed at the University of North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center.

"Everything was going fine and the next thing I know there was like a big explosion," he said. "All I heard was a big spark, a big boom."

Several times, Holland grimaced in pain, his arms wrapped in bulky bandages. He recalled being at the rear of the truck, while the other crew members were more toward the middle.

That may be the only reason he survived, said Dr. Samuel Jones, Hol-land's surgeon.

"It looks like he was off the truck before the explosion actually occurred," Jones said.

Holland said when paramedics carried him away from the scene and he looked at the truck, he didn't think anyone else survived.

He was transported to Jaycee Burn Center along with his uncle, Terry. "His uncle had suffered burns to 100 percent of his body and they (were) all third-degree burns, from his head to his toes," Jones said.

Terry Holland, building maintenance supervisor at The Lord's Table, was the team leader for Melrose South Pyrotechnics, near Rock Hill, S.C. According to Paul Peoples, an associate pastor at the church, Simmons and Kirkland didn't work for the company but had agreed to help Holland that night.

Kirkland's father, Charles Kirkland Sr., is also an associate pastor at The Lord's Table.

Funeral services for the four began today, with Hill's scheduled for this morning in Fremont.

Today at 2, Kirkland's funeral will be at the chapel of Howell Funeral Home & Crematory. He will be buried in Newsoms, Virginia.

A memorial service for Holland is planned for Friday at 1 p.m. at The Lord's Table. Arrangements are being handled by McIntyre Funeral Home and Ministries.

Ms. Simmons, from Georgia, will be buried there, but a local memorial service will likely be held at The Lord's Table next week, Pastor Bill Wilson said.

The church is also setting up a fund for victims' families, according to Mitch Ham, worship pastor.

"Several children have been put in bad situations" since the loss, he said, citing loss of insurance and having future education plans jeopardized as a result.

Donations can be sent to The Ocracoke Fireworks Disaster Relief Fund, c/o The Lord's Table, P.O. Box 11049, Goldsboro, NC 27532. Credit card donations can also be handled directly at the church by calling 751-8188.

Meanwhile, investigation into the explosion is continuing. An agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the cause has been ruled an accident.

The state Labor Depart-ment is investigating, but spokesman Neal O'Briant said results would not be available for three to four months.

In July 2001 an explosion at Melrose's Catawba plant in South Carolina killed a 24-year-old employee and injured two workers. Melrose settled with the state and paid a fine of $20,750. Two years ago, a malfunctioning firework injured two workers during an Independence Day fireworks show in Fort Stewart, Ga.

Doctors at Jaycee Burn Center said the hospital treated multiple adults and at least two children with fireworks injuries July Fourth.

--The Associated Press contributed to this report.