FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee fire officials have shut down a Fayetteville-based blasting company after multiple complaints and violations in Murfreesboro, Nolensville, and Ashland City.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office said several blasts have caused major damage to structures and vehicles, as well as some injuries.
According to documents obtained by News 2, the blaster and the company he works for have been summarily suspended pending a final determination of whether the company’s registrations should be revoked.
This all comes after multiple blasting mistakes, including a massive explosion behind an Ashland City boat company on Nov. 1.
News 2 has obtained surveillance footage from Caymas Boats that shows the moment an explosion detonated in the hillside behind the company.
On the video, you can see an unknown number of rocks and dirt and debris blowing out of the hillside like a massive hand grenade. Other cameras captured a wave of explosive energy sweeping across the back lot.
Even when the footage is slowed down, it’s obvious the rocks were being propelled at terrific speed toward the boat facility where 300 people work. Fortunately, many of those employees had already left.
When you zoom in, the video shows jagged boulders bouncing toward the back of the company like runaway bowling balls.
In the moment following the errant blast, you can see dozens, if not hundreds of rocks of all sizes, dotting the sky. Some of those rocks weighed more than 20 pounds and were as big as footballs.
Many rocks sailed over the company and landed hundreds of yards away in the middle of Highway 12. However, many more rained down on the side of the Caymas Boats facility. Some of the granite shrapnel rips thru the building’s concrete walls.
The video shows a scary moment as a worker exited the building a few seconds after the blast wave blew by the building.
📧 Have breaking come to you: Subscribe to News 2 email alerts →
When the call first went out about the explosion, first responders believed they were heading to a mass casualty event.
“I got people hurt out here too,” one caller at the factory said in a recording obtained by News 2. “They got blood running down their faces where they got hit in the face with rocks.
However, officials said nobody was seriously injured or killed.
Caymas Boats owner Earl Bentz told News 2 that most of the facility’s 300 employees work early and go home early, so when the blast occurred, the majority of the workers had already left for the day.
Bentz said Hammons Drilling and Blasting did not give notice of the blast that shook him out of his office chair: “I did, personally, receive no notice, so that’s why I was a little taken aback.”
After further inspection, Bentz said his new roof has more than 100 holes that must be repaired immediately to protect millions of dollars worth of equipment and merchandise inside the facility.
“Had this thing happened 45 minutes earlier, we’d have had nearly 300 people in there that could have taken one of these to their head or bodies,” Bentz explained as he held a large rock in his hand.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office said the blaster who made this devastating mistake is Clifton Marcelle Perry who works for Hammons Drilling and Blasting, LLC.
According to documents obtained by News 2, the State Fire Marshal’s Office has shut down both entities by summarily suspending operations for repeated violations. That includes not only the Ashland City event, but a number of incidents prior to it based on the the disciplinary history recorded in the order of summary suspension issued to the blaster and the company.
Per state documentation, on April 19, 2022, Perry and Hammons Drilling and Blasting were blasting at the Shalom Farms project in Murfreesboro. The report indicates that the respondent used blasting mats, but fly-rock still flew 135 feet and penetrated the roof of a nearby home. The state issued the blaster a letter of warning.
Four months later, on Aug. 25, 2022, there was another incident. The state’s investigative report detailed another fly-rock incident at the Shalom Farms construction site near Stoney Meadow Drive, indicating that several homes were damaged by rocks that penetrated them.
The inspector determined the blast was too confined by the mats and over precaution caused the debris to exit through a seam. With property damage that exceeded $5,000, the blaster was fined $3,000.
According to the order of summary suspension issued to Hammons Drilling and Blasting, the company’s disciplinary history continued into 2023.
On March 13, the state was notified of blasting at the Hidden River project in Murfreesboro where fly-rock caused damage to a home.
Then, on March 28, the blasting firm was placed on probation for six months, effective March 14 through Sept. 14.
However, on Sept. 11 — within the six-month probationary period — the blasting company had another incident, this time at the Kiddie Academy project in Nolensville where fly-rock caused damage once again. Rocks reportedly hit parked vehicles and a commercial building.
That was followed by the Nov. 1 incident at Caymas Boats in Ashland City.
According to the state, the blasting firm violated blasting regulations when fly-rock was cast from the respondent’s blast site on Nov. 1. In addition, the following reasoning was provided when saying the respondent’s unlawful conduct warranted an order of summary suspension:
The Commissioner concludes the Respondent violated regulations governing blasting
and acted in an unsafe manner while using explosives justifying suspension of
registrations pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-105-118.
Furthermore, the Commissioner concludes, having considered the totality of the
available evidence, that the summary suspension of the registration of the Respondent is
in the public interest, and is necessary for the protection of the public. Furthermore, the Commissioner has determined that prior notice of the Order of Summary Suspension is
not in the public interest and would be detrimental to the protection of the public. The
ongoing unlawful conduct of the Respondent necessitates an Order of Summary
Suspension requiring the Respondent to cease and desist from all blasting operations to
prevent the Respondent from exposing the public to irreparable harm.
State investigators said there have been 181 complaints against Hammons Drilling and Blasting since 2019. Of the 181 complaints, 23 resulted in violations. Of those incidents, 15 involved fly-rock explosion mishaps.
The state added that Perry, in the capacity of an employee of Hammons Drilling and Blasting, has had four fly rock incidents.
Over the last four years, Tennessee has fined the company more than $32,000 for violations. However, officials told News 2 they have yet to receive payment for the $5,000 penalty placed on the company from the Nolensville blast incident.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office sent News 2 a statement saying, in part, “The disciplinary actions taken by the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office…show that our team takes seriously our mission of protecting the lives and property of Tennessee consumers.”
If you have experienced problems with blasting or other safety issues, you are encouraged to report those issues to the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
News 2 has reached out to the blaster and the blasting company multiple times. After the Ashland City blast, a woman who answered the phone said the company had no comment.
A man who answered the phone belonging to Perry said he was driving and would have to call News 2 back. He never did.
On Friday, Nov. 10, News 2 called both the blaster and blasting agency and left messages. So far, no calls have been returned.