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Explosion at Michigan fireworks factory kills at least four workers

30 March 1999
At least four people were killed Monday in an explosion and fire that tore through a fireworks factory near Osseo, Michigan where seven other workers perished in a similar blast three months ago.

The explosion occurred around 8:30 a.m. at the Independence Professional Fireworks Company. The plant is located in a farming area about 90 miles southwest of Detroit and 15 miles north of the Michigan-Ohio border.

The blast left only one wall standing in a building where fireworks are assembled, roughly 100 yards from a structure that was completely destroyed December 11, Hillsdale County Sheriff Stan Burchardt said.

The previous explosion killed six women and one man while injuring 13 others at the plant. Twenty-two people were working at the time of the explosion. Federal, state and local investigators determined that blast occurred in a shell assembly room, leaving only a concrete slab with debris and human remains scattered over a wide area. Investigators said they might never fully understand what caused the explosion.

Independence is one of the largest producers of fireworks in the US, producing an estimated 1.3 million fireworks shells a year. Independence makes all of its products by hand, using materials like nitrates, sulfurs, charcoal and black powder. The December 1998 explosion was the second major blast in the last 10 years at the 26-year-old company.

Fireworks producers often use low-paid workers who accept the risk because they lack other opportunities. Last October 13 at least 10 workers were killed in an explosion and fire in Tultepec, near Mexico City. In January, 17 workers, including three children, were killed in fireworks factory in China.

 
Michigan fireworks factory cited for repeated safety violations before fatal blast
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