Explosion survivor in recovery|Memorial funds honor victims of Ocracoke fireworks tragedy

Published 6:03 am Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lifestyles & Features Editor

The sole survivor of the fireworks explosion on Ocracoke Island continues to recover today in the burn unit of N.C. Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill.
Martez Holland, 27, of Goldsboro, was injured the morning of July 4.
He and fellow employees of South Carolina-based Melrose South Pyrotechnics were unloading fireworks for use during the island’s grand finale of a day long celebration.
Holland’s doctors said Tuesday that he is expected to recover from his injuries but will face a lifetime of therapy.
Killed in the explosion were Holland’s uncle, Terry Holland, along with Lisa Simmons, Mark Hill and Charles Kirkland Jr. All were from the Goldsboro area.
A memorial for Hill was held Tuesday evening, Kirkland was buried Wednesday and services for Simmons and Holland are scheduled for Friday.
Meanwhile, The Lord’s Table, the Goldsboro church attended by several of the victims, and the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department have established memorial funds to support the victims’ survivors.
In an article prepared for next week’s special memorial edition of The Ocracoker, published by the Washington Daily News, Ocracoke Fire Chief Albert O’Neal speaks briefly about the tragedy.
“I hope I never have to see anything like that again,” he said.
Members of the fire department were at the scene at the time of the explosion as a safety precaution; volunteers were on hand to wet down the area where the fireworks were to be set up in preparation for that evening’s festivities.
O’Neal also thanked the Ocracoke EMS team and local and off-island volunteers who assisted at the scene.
“I’d say 20 or 25 people showed up to help. Doctors and nurses who were here on vacation just jumped in,” O’Neal said. “The community plus the visitors joined together.”
Robin Turner, who divides her time between homes in Washington and Ocracoke, said everyone in the island community was respectful of the situation.
“Everyone felt the pain,” Turner told The Ocracoker. “And when people were trying to help, there was no difference between locals and off-islanders.”
Saturday’s explosion, one of the worst tragedies on Ocracoke Island since the long-ago days of shipwrecks in the area dubbed “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” rocked the community to its core.
The traditional Independence Day parade was postponed until Sunday and was revamped as a silent memorial to explosion victims.
State and federal officials on Sunday announced they had ruled the explosion accidental, but they offered no further details about its cause.
The explosion occurred on the campus of the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching, the island’s former U.S. Coast Guard Station overlooking Silver Lake harbor.