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Update: Two recovering in burn unit after paper mill 'flash fire'

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, Aug. 18, an explosion rocked a relatively small building at Canton's Evergreen Packaging Paper Mill.

"The preliminary information that we have at this time is that two employees at Evergreen Packaging LLC (175 Main St. in Canton) sustained injuries, from what was described as a flash fire, and were hospitalized on Aug. 18, 2021," a North Carolina Department of Labor Spokesperson said in an email.

The occupational safety and health division at NCDOL is investigating the incident.

The two workers injured were Brandon Carter and Mandy West. Kathy Correll, West's mother, said she was told the explosion was due to a buildup of methane gas in the building near the scale that weighs incoming trucks and chemicals.

"I got my last message from Mandy at 5:51 that morning, so it must have been just a few minutes after 6 when it happened," she said.

Carter and West are being treated at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Georgia. Correll said she believes her daughter, who was in front of Carter and took the brunt of the blast, is more severely injured.

"Right now, she's been through three surgeries since the accident happened on the 18th," Correll said.

West was intubated for nine days, and Correll has not yet been allowed to visit. Only a few days ago, she heard her daughter's voice for the first time since the incident.

"They were holding the phone for her, and she said, 'I love you mom,'" Correll said.

Correll said the road ahead will be long and challenging for her daughter.

"She'll never be the same," she said. "She'll be scarred for life, her arms and hands and her face down the front of her legs."

Correll was quick to point out that she believes the paper mill is at fault for not conducting the appropriate check of the space prior to its use.

"The company needs to check their grounds before they jeopardize anyone else's life," she said. "They have machines and instruments to check during flooding or anything else. They should have checked. They closed other parts of the mill, so why didn't they call her and tell her to wait until they checked there?"

As rough as things are, Correll said that because her daughter is so beloved within her community, plenty are already offering help.

"She's got a lot of friends here in Haywood County," Correll said. "She's one of a kind."

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help raise funds to go toward West's recovery. Correll didn't even particularly want to speak about what she needed. She was just more focused on her daughter.

"I just want to see my daughter get back on her feet to where she can come back home," Correll said. "I don't care if I have anything as long as my daughter is took care of and comes back home."

"Mandy should have the rest of her life," she added. "But now I just want everybody to keep up the prayers for her and Brandon."

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