National response team arrives to investigate plant explosions - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

National response team arrives to investigate plant explosions

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Photo courtesy of Amelia Carlson, Bulletin Times Photo courtesy of Amelia Carlson, Bulletin Times
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HARDEMAN COUNTY, TN -
(WMC-TV) - On Monday, a national response team will look into two explosions at a West Tennessee plant.

Kilgore, located in Toone, Tenn., makes flares for various military applications. 

One of those explosions left worker Michael Chism severely burned, and he is now recovering at The MED. We are told that second blast was a controlled explosion, though it was loud and felt by people living miles away.

Almost everyone who lives in Toone knows someone who works at the plant, and just as many people felt one or both of Saturday's explosion. Now they are all watching and waiting as officials from The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigate what happened inside. 

Daphne Woods says the explosion was too close to home.

"I could hear the family down the street hollering 'Oh my God, oh my God'. And that brought back memories," said Woods.

Memories of her sister, Katrina Jones, who was badly burned in a 2010 fire, and knowing all too well the long road ahead for employees, friends and family of Chism.

"My heart just goes out to them because I know what they're going through because I've been there."

During a press conference Sunday afternoon, a spokesperson for the ATF said Chism is still in critical condition, having suffered burns on 90 percent of his body. We are told Chism's family is at the hospital with him.

Sunday morning officials got their first look inside the plant. ATF's national response team is on location, and includes around 20 chemists, engineers, bomb technicians and fire experts.

They have secured the scene and determined that it is safe for others to investigate, though that will not begin until Monday.

Right now, there are a lot more questions than answers.

"We're not here to do anything but to find out what happened and find out if it was a criminal act if it's not, it will be worked by the appropriate regulatory officials," said ATF Special Agent Jeff Fulton.

As for plant managers, they did not allow investigators on property Saturday until a warrant was issued. ATF officials say that it is not uncommon and usually has something to do with trade secrets.

Sheriff Doolen says this is a small and close community, almost everyone who lives here, knows someone who works here and many people know the Chism family.

"I believe in giving the family a fair shake on what happened and having questions answered for them, I think that's the best thing that we can do," noted Sheriff John Doolen.

He says tonight the community is hurting knowing someone was hurt; still trying to find out how it happened.

"The Chism's are a wonderful family around here. Matter a fact his father is a reserved deputy. So it hits home."

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