Explosion at Eastman prompts surrounding schools to shelter in place

KINGSPORT, TN (WJHL) – An explosion that happened on Wednesday morning impacted some surrounding schools in the area.

Kingsport City Schools, some Sullivan County schools, and Northeast State Community College were impacted.

Matt Jaynes said he had a close encounter with the explosion.

“I was closed enough to where I could feel the heat coming off of it,” he said.

He said he wanted to pick his son up from his school, Andrew Johnson Elementary, which is located not far from the chemical company.

“That’s what concerned me is it’s probably is the closest school to Eastman. So I just decided to come and get him just to be on the safe side,” he said.

When Eastman sent out a notification for neighbors to shelter in place and turn off all HVAC units, that’s what schools in the area did.

Kingsport City Schools was included.

“What that means is all of our normal school operations continue, it’s just that students stay inside and we do shut down our HVAC just as a precaution,” said Assistant Superintendent Andy True.

Director of Sullivan County Schools Evelyn Rafalowski says the north and south zone and Indian Springs in the county did the same.

So did Northeast State Community College.

“We felt it was best obviously to put students in a safe of a position as possible and follow the lead of Eastman and authorities in going into that shelter in place,” True said.

He said parents were notified in multiple ways.

“We sent out a notification to our parents on social media, email, phone, and text,” he explained.

Senior at Dobyns-Bennett, Caleb Whetsell, said he was in class when the explosion happened and immediately called his loved ones.

“I just called my dad really quick to see if him and his buddy that works there are alright,” Whetsell said.

The shelter in place for areas outside the half mile radius of the explosion was lifted around 1:20 Wednesday afternoon after Eastman gave the all-clear.

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