Investigators back at scene of fatal Rockmart mill explosion

Investigators returned Tuesday to the Rockmart feed mill where a Sunday explosion killed a man and injured five people, the spokesman for state Insurance and Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens' office said.

Glen Allen said investigators went inside the facility to look at blast and burn patterns in the hopes of determining what caused the explosion.

“They could make a determination today or it could take a while,” he said.

Allen previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that structural engineers needed to figure out how to go in before investigators could enter JCG Farms feed mill, a normal protocol for large facilities. Engineers went to the plant on Monday.

Justin Deems, 25, was killed in the explosion, which shook JCG Farms and nearby properties off Ga. 101.

One injured person was flown to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta in critical condition and remained there Monday, according to Channel 2 Action News. Four others were taken to hospitals in Rome and Marietta.

Eight people had been working at the mill, which processes chicken feed for farms in the region, Rockmart Fire and Emergency Services Chief Todd Queen said Sunday.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was called in to investigate because it has expertise in large commercial structures, Special Agent Will Creech said. Local and state fire investigators are assisting, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was notified.

Queen said firefighters uncovered a gas leak, but investigators do not know whether it caused the blast or resulted from it.

The explosion caused the partial collapse of a low building next to the plant’s 100-foot tall storage and processing facility, which is about 50 miles northwest of Atlanta, Queen said.

Justin Deems’ mother, Rita Deems, said the explosion was so powerful it pushed her son out of a second-story window and relatives told her later that they heard it 10 miles away.

A much smaller dust explosion took place at the plant in recent years in a different building, Queen said. “It was nowhere near the magnitude of what was experienced today.”

An OSHA online inspections database lists two complaints against the mill in August 2013, but gives few details.

Deems is survived by wife Ashley, brothers Jason, 24, and Travis, 23; sisters Ashley, 21, and Hope, 18, and 10 half brothers and sisters.