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Five workers were airlifted to a burn center after an explosion at Valley Proteins, an animal rendering plant in Rose Hill, North Carolina.

Michael Smith, owner and chairman of Valley Proteins, confirmed that five people were injured in the Valley Proteins explosion, which occurred last Wednesday morning at the Valley Proteins facility in Rose Hill. Smith said the injured were employees of an outside contractor, and he said he believes they were welding at the time of the explosion.

 “Our primary concern is the medical treatment of these workers,” Smith said. “We are praying for the five workers’ health and a full recovery.”

Smith said an investigation was begun almost immediately.

Valley Proteins explosion:
‘Hot work’ sparked incident

Matthew Barwick, the deputy director of Emergency Services for Duplin County, said that at the time of the Valley Proteins explosion, the injured workers were doing “hot work,” which can involve cutting, welding, or other machinery work.

All five sustained serious burn injuries. Four were airlifted immediately to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center (or UNC Burn Clinic) in Chapel Hill, about 110 miles north of Rose Hill. Barwick said the fifth worker first was taken by ambulance to Vidant Duplin Hospital, but he then was airlifted to the burn center.

“Had the situation happened on a day where the weather is not as good as it is today, where we weren’t able to get aircraft from across the state to get these patients out of here, this situation would’ve had a much different outcome,” Barwick said.

The injuries are considered critical because there was a threat to the airways of the victims, Barwick said, and that is why the first four were airlifted right away.

No further information has been released on the conditions of the five victims.

Valley Proteins explosion: Five workers airlifted to burn center

Valley Proteins explosion: Five contract workers were airlifted to a burn center after an explosion at the Valley Proteins animal rendering plant in Rose Hill, North Carolina. All five sustained serious burn injuries, but no other information was released.

Valley Proteins explosion:
State, federal investigators

The Valley Proteins explosion caused a flash fire that lasted only for 3 to 4 seconds, Barwick said. The cause of the explosion is the focus of the investigation.

“It could be dust, it could be metallic shavings – really anything,” Barwick said, “And that’s why we called in state and federal investigators to help our local investigators find out exactly what happened.”

Valley Proteins explosion:
Plant produces animal feed

Valley Proteins is a Virginia-based company that recycles meat and poultry waste from the food industry to create feed for animals.

The incident happened in the Valley Proteins facility that houses hexane, a chemical commonly extracted from petroleum and crude oil. Hexane is a colorless liquid that gives off a subtle, gasoline-like odor.

The hexane portion of the Valley Proteins plant is shut down while the investigation continues into the cause of the explosion. The rest of the plant is operating as normal.

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