Two people were shot and killed Friday morning during an apparent robbery at a soda bottling plant north of Charlotte, authorities said.

Concord deputy police chief Guy Smith said authorities were using a helicopter and police dogs to hunt for the gunman, who was seen running away from the Sun-drop Bottling Co. carrying a box. He remained at large late Friday afternoon.

"We have 25 to 30 investigators who are following every lead," Smith said. "When someone is carrying a box from the scene, you want to talk to them."

Smith said the shooter walked into the plant's office around 10 a.m. during what they believe was a robbery. He identified the victims as Donna Barnhardt, 59, and Darrell Noles, 44.

Two employees working at the facility who did not hear the gunfire later found the bodies and called 911, he said.

Smith said Barnhardt had worked at the company for 18 years.

"She liked her job. She was just one of these people who was happy-go-lucky," said Charles Messina, whose brother-in-law is married to Barnhardt's daughter. "She was just bubbly all the time ... It's just amazing that something so senseless could happen."

Family members said Noles was not an employee at the plant, but was visiting the office to apply for a part-time job.

Smith said police don't know the shooter's identity or if there was a relationship between the shooter and the victims.

Sun-drop Bottling manufactures soft drinks and spring water at the plant about 25 miles north of Charlotte.

The suspect is described as an African American male with long hair worn in dreadlocks.