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Explosion at Esterline in Camden leaves two injured

by Janice McIntyre | May 26, 2016 at 5:00 a.m.

CAMDEN – At least two people were injured after an incident occurred at an industrial plant in East Camden, according to a Camden News report.

At around 7 p.m. on Monday, emergency units from Ouachita and Calhoun counties were dispatched to Esterline Defense Technologies in response to what a radio dispatcher labeled as an “explosion.”

Personnel from the Ouachita County and Calhoun County Sheriffs Offices were posted at the entrance of the facility to keep other cars from entering the area. Ouachita County Sheriff David Norwood said that the explosion occurred in Calhoun County and that he did not have any details as to what happened. Moments later, Calhoun County Sheriff Bob Dunn stopped as he was exiting the site of the accident and informed the Camden News that he did not know how the explosion happened, but that he believed two people were injured and that their injuries did not appear to be life threatening.

He added that the roof was blown off the building, but the sides of the building were still intact. He added that the fire was under control, but the Camden Fire Department was staying behind for precautionary reasons.

Several witnesses who were near the entrance at Esterline said that the explosion was heard and felt throughout East Camden.

Camden Mayor Marie Trisollini reported on her Facebook page that the two were seriously injured and were airlifted to the burn unit at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.

A relative of one of the blast victims posted on Facebook today that the person took “a blast to the face, which left some burns” on the face and chest, that her hands are “totally” burned, that she “took shrapnel to her left elbow – which will require surgery – and (has) a gash on her leg.”

The relative said in the post that the woman’s doctor is stating that the patient is “coherent and responding well.”

Crowd control was requested over the Ouachita County radio scanner for the OCMC shortly after the explosion occurred so that the helicopters could arrive and leave the hospital area without delay.

The Camden News called Esterline’s East Camden facility for more details and was redirected to Esterline’s headquarters in Washington. An official statement and/or more details were requested via voice mail and email, but as of press time, there was no response.

According to a news story in Wednesday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the defense technology plant produces flares for the military and the plant is closed pending an investigation into the explosion that injured two workers Monday evening, a company official said.

Esterline Defense Technologies officials are working with area authorities to investigate the cause of the explosion at the plant in Highland Industrial Park, company spokesman Michelle DeGrand said Tuesday in a statement.

The plant will reopen when investigators are sure that conditions are safe for employees, DeGrand said.

Wendy Hines, the female employee injured in the accident, had worked at Esterline for approximately nine months. She suffered burns to her hands, face, neck and chest, according to her sister, Christy Hines. Wendy Hines had a fracture in her elbow, a laceration in her leg from shrapnel and her hair was singed off in the explosion, her sister said.

Hines was listed in fair condition Tuesday, according to Macia McCardle, an Arkansas Children’s Hospital representative. Hines was sitting up and trying to talk to family members Tuesday afternoon, her sister said.

“We are just grateful that she is alive,” Christy Hines said.

Officials have not released the name of the man who was injured, but he was in stable condition Tuesday and none of his injuries were life-threatening, according to the statement from DeGrand.

The explosion wasn’t the first at the facility. An explosion in a small outbuilding in June 2009 sent six workers to the hospital with minor injuries. All were treated and released that afternoon.

The facility produces various pyrotechnic devices such as torpedo decoy systems, infrared decoy flares and anti-ship missile countermeasures, according to the Esterline website. The company produces technology for the military in three main categories: avionics and controls, sensors and systems, and advanced materials.

The company has facilities in 13 states and in Canada, China, the Dominican Republic, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Morocco and the United Kingdom, according to the Democrat-Gazette.


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