Two confirmed dead in VT Halter Marine explosion

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

ESCATAWPA, MS (WLOX) - Moss Point Police and emergency crews confirmed two dead Friday after an explosion at a Jackson County Shipyard.  Emergency crews responded to VT Halter Marine's Escatawpa shipyard on Trinity Drive late Friday afternoon.  Crews left the scene around 9 p.m. Friday after an evening rescuing survivors and recovering those who did not survive.

From 4:00pm on Friday until well after dark, emergency crews flooded into VT Halter Marine, after a deadly explosion in the hull of a tugboat.

"They were cleaning a tank, preparing it to be painted," said VT Halter Marine CEO William Skinner.

Skinner was devastated to hear the news of Friday afternoon's fatal turn.

"We're obviously very saddened by the events," Skinner said. "We had an explosion of some type there, but we're not absolutely sure. Everything is still under investigation, its preliminary right now."

The cause has not yet been released, but the tragic results of the explosion were felt immediately. Officials confirmed Friday night that two people died in the accident, and three more were taken to Singing River Hospital. Hospital officials reported of those three, two were treated and released and the third was sent to the University of South Alabama's burn center.

A sixth person was airlifted from the scene to Mobile, and was listed in critical condition.

"Our sympathy goes out to them," Skinner said. "We're very deeply concerned about the family. Sympathy goes out to them at this time."

Skinner said this accident is the first of this magnitude for the site. They said all of their workers are trained to uphold certain safety standards.

"They go through safety orientation," Skinner said. "It's a very straightforward process in cleaning and getting ready to paint. But again, the accident's being investigated at this time."

Skinner said he considers the shipyard a safe facility. The names of those who died in Friday's explosion have not yet been released.

The Trinity Drive shipyard is one of three Jackson County shipyards run by the company. The company employs approximately 1,500 people in its Jackson County locations. Skinner said 250 employees work at that particular shipyard.

The company is a leader in medium to small craft manufacturing. The Trinity Drive shipyard is a shipbuilding facility that makes several different types of vessels, including several different tug boats.

The Moss Point Police and Fire Departments were the lead agencies in Friday's scene.

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