Rescuers, Customers Report Issues at Site of Worker's Death - TribPapers

Rescuers, Customers Report Issues at Site of Worker’s Death

Carolina Brea Franks. Photo courtesy of West Funeral Home.

Weaverville – Emergency shutdown equipment at a car wash, where a worker was killed, was found to be malfunctioning when rescuers arrived, according to a report by the Weaverville Fire Department.

On the evening of January 14th, a tragic incident occurred at a popular car wash in Weaverville, resulting in the death of an employee. The Weaverville Police and Fire Departments, along with Buncombe County EMS, immediately responded to the report of a traumatic injury involving a ZIPS Car Wash employee at 1 Gill Road.

Upon arrival, first responders discovered the victim, later identified as 26-year-old Carolina Franks from Buncombe County, trapped in the car wash machinery. Tragically, Franks was pronounced dead at the scene. The North Carolina Department of Labor OSHA division has been notified and is leading the investigation.

Sarah Elizabeth Falanga, a spokesperson for Zips Car Wash, expressed condolences to Franks’ family and friends, stating that the company’s thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time. In addition, Zips Car Wash announced the closure of their local site out of respect for Carolina and the entire team, who have been deeply affected by this tragedy. Falanga emphasized that Zips Car Wash is committed to providing a safe environment, prioritizing the safety and well-being of both employees and customers. Furthermore, the company assured their continued support to the local police and the North Carolina Department of Occupational Safety and Health throughout the ongoing investigation.

According to a report from the Asheville Citizens-Times, Franks had not been scheduled to work at the car wash that day but stepped in as a replacement when another employee canceled.

The Tribune attempted to obtain an incident report from the Weaverville Fire Department but initially encountered difficulty. Fire Chief Scottie Harris directed the Tribune to Police Chief Davis, citing that he is responsible for handling media inquiries related to the incident. However, upon further clarification that fire department incident reports are public records, the Tribune reached out to Weaverville Town Attorney Jennifer Jones to inquire about a state statute that might prevent Chief Harris from fulfilling their request. Finally, the Tribune obtained the report, which stated that after a rescuer found no pulse, Franks was declared dead by unanimous consensus among the Rescue 8 crew, who determined that her injuries were incompatible with life.

The fire report revealed problems with the car wash’s emergency stop button. Although a firefighter pressed the button multiple times upon entry, the roller towards the entrance continued to spin. Even after rescuers reached Franks, the car wash power remained active, with the roller still spinning. Eventually, a firefighter located the power box, used the keys to access it, and successfully shut down the car wash by depressing the emergency stop button.

The Tribune also shared the Weaverville Police Department’s press release on Facebook, prompting comments from followers who expressed concerns about the car wash and its previous mechanical issues. One individual shared their experience of the car wash stopping mid-wash, requiring a female employee to step in and restart the equipment. Another commenter mentioned that mechanical problems were frequent at that location, leading them to switch to other car washes in Asheville. Additionally, a third person reported issues with lazy male employees and the car wash damaging their roof.

Facebook followers of the Tribune responded to the Weaverville Police Department’s press release with interesting comments suggesting previous issues with the car wash before Franks’ death. Stacey Jones Allen posted, “Sad. I was at the same ZIPS two weeks ago when it stopped mid-wash, and a female employee had to walk through and restart the equipment.” Jan Banks, replying to Allen said, “That location had mechanical problems all the time. So much that we quit using it on our membership and started using Asheville locations.” Rebecca Traylor Wooten posted, “I quit using them for two reasons. The male employees were so lazy! And the car wash kept pulling a piece off of my roof and I’d have to go back in and find it!!!”

Franks’ obituary listed her surviving family members and described her as a cheerful and happy person who brought joy into the lives of those around her. The Tribune also reached out to the NC Department of Labor, receiving a response from Erin Wilson, the Director of Communication, who confirmed that the Occupational Safety and Health Division is conducting an inspection into the fatality.