KILGORE, Texas – The bodies of three workers killed during an explosion at a fireworks warehouse were found early Friday in what was the second major deadly fireworks accident this week.
The blast Thursday evening destroyed about half the large metal warehouse and shattered nearby homes. On Wednesday, a truck packed with fireworks exploded in Bonita Springs (search), Fla., killing five workers who had been unloading the shipment for an Independence Day display.
The bodies of the three workers have been removed from the building, said Clay Alexander, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (search).
Firefighters and ATF agents had not reported finding any other casualties early Friday. At least five people were injured.
Mayor Joe T. Parker said late Thursday that the three workers were two men and a woman who were inside the building when the first blast occurred.
Thousands of pounds of fireworks inside the Lamb Entertainment's (search) warehouse and packed in the tractor-trailer rig exploded, the ATF said. Employees were preparing 12 commercial fireworks shows scheduled for Friday, including one in Kilgore.
Alexander said the investigation indicates the blast was accidental.
Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano said five homes in the neighborhood east of the warehouse were damaged or destroyed. "The scene is pretty devastating," he said.
Homes and businesses in an area for several blocks around the warehouse were evacuated. Residents who heard and felt the blast said it reminded them of when Columbia disintegrated over East Texas in February.
"It was a big, big explosion -- the noise was like when the shuttle came down. The building was shaking," said Justin Singh, owner of Food & Fuel convenience store, a half-mile from the warehouse. "We ran out and saw white smoke coming out. It was bad, people were all running scared. This is a small town. This never happens here."
Singh said 10 or 15 smaller explosions followed the initial explosion.
Four nearby businesses were damaged. Windows of vehicles at two automobile dealerships were blown out in the city 115 miles southeast of Dallas.
"That was incredible," said Roy Williams, who was in the Durham Chevrolet dealership's parking lot during the blasts. "I had a pretty bad feeling in the pit of my stomach."
Alexander warned residents that the blast may have thrown unexploded fireworks into the wooded neighborhood surrounding the warehouse. He said people finding fireworks or debris should call Kilgore emergency services.
In Florida, the bodies of four victims were left at the scene until midday Thursday until investigators were certain it was safe to retrieve them. The fifth victim died Thursday at a hospital.
The survivor jumped into water when she heard the initial explosion, and suffered only minor injuries, officials have said.
The truck carried $50,000 worth of fireworks destined for displays in Bonita Springs and Naples. There was no early indication of the cause, investigators said.