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Sears Auto Center employee killed in tire accident

A Sears Auto Center employee was killed early Saturday morning in Salem, N.H., when a tire he was working on blew up, authorities said.

The Salem Police and Fire Departments responded to a report of a tire explosion at Sears Auto at The Mall at Rockingham Park shortly before 8 a.m. They arrived to find the employee suffering injuries from blunt force trauma to his head, according to a statement released by Salem police spokesman Lieutenant Michael Kelly.

The employee, who was identified as 22-year-old Justin Almon of Sandown, N.H., was taken to the Parkland Medical Center in Derry, where he was pronounced dead.

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A customer, Adam Sproul, 23, of Boothbay, Maine, also suffered serious head injuries and was airlifted to Boston Medical Center for treatment.

A preliminary inquiry found that the explosion happened while Almon was "in the process of fixing a large truck tire on an industrial tire changer," Kelly said.

Salem Fire Department Captain Jon Brackett said that while these types of incidents are rare, "in an industrial setting there is always the potential for an accident leading to catastrophic injury."

Brackett added that he doesn't know what led to the explosion, but he expects that investigators will look into the possibility of an imperfection in the tire or excessive pressure.

In a statement released by Sears, spokesman Howard Riefs called Saturday's events a "tragic accident," and said the company is "working closely with local authorities as they investigate this matter."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of our associate, and we send our deepest condolences to them. We also send our thoughts and concerns to our customer who was injured," he added.

Local police and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were investigating the incident.

The Rockingham County Attorney's Office could not be reached for comment.

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Reenat Sinay can be reached at reenat.sinay@globe.com.