Originally created 07/23/98

PSC shuts down phone companies



ATLANTA -- Three long-distance companies no longer can operate in Georgia because they switched consumers' long-distance services without their consent, according the Public Service Commission.

The companies are Business Discount Plan, Discount Network Services and Minimum Rate Pricing.

The PSC Office of Consumer Affairs has received more than 230 slamming complaints against the three companies since September. Complaints have escalated from less than 200 in 1995 to nearly 2,000 in 1997.

Switching without consent is referred to as slamming.

"Competition has lowered the rates we all pay for long distance services," PSC Chairman Bobby Baker said in a statement Wednesday. "However, there are some isolated companies which are not acting in the best interest of Georgians."

The ruling was made Tuesday.Exploding tire kills manSPARTANBURG -- A 53-year-old Upstate man was killed when a tire he was inflating exploded in his face.

Lemuel Edward Walker Sr. died instantly Tuesday, said Randy Smith, a Spartanburg County coroner's investigator.

Mr. Walker, a subcontractor for Dixie Tire & Automotive Service Center, was inflating a 16-inch tire he mounted on a 16 1/2 -inch rim. When the tire seal came loose, the tire and rim flew up.

Mr. Walker, who was standing over the tire, was thrown about 10 feet into the air and fell face down, sheriff's spokesman Eric Lawson said. The tire then careened off an open garage door and bounced off the back window of a nearby car, Mr. Smith said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will investigate, and Mr. Walker's son has plenty of questions.

"There is no possible way the man would have stuck his head over the tire," said Lemuel Walker Jr., who said that's one of the first lessons his father taught him in the tire business. He also wondered how a car tire could carry so much pressure that it could strike his father under the chin and still hit the garage roof.Consumers set power use markFLORENCE -- Carolina Power & Light Co. customers have broken a 3-year-old electricity usage record.

On Aug. 14, 1995, customers' air conditioners, fans and other appliances consumed 10,156 megawatt-hours of power. One megawatt can meet the electricity needs of 50 homes with all appliances running.

The record stood until 5 p.m. Monday, when peak demand reached 10,298 megawatts. Early Tuesday, CP&L spokeswoman Sally Ramey predicted that record soon would fall.

Sure enough, consumers set another record about 5 p.m. Tuesday by using 10,500 megawatts.

CP&L serves 1.1 million customers in North Carolina and South Carolina. Most of its 160,239 South Carolina customers are in the Pee Dee.

Despite the record usage, Ms. Ramey said demand isn't even close to exceeding generating capacity. CP&L can handle demand of up to 12,000 megawatts.Pilot ejects as F-16 crashesMURRELLS INLET -- A Shaw Air Force Base pilot ejected safely Wednesday before his F-16 crashed into the ocean off Murrells Inlet, according to television reports.

The pilot was taken to Medical University Hospital in Charleston for a routine exam, WIS-TV of Columbia reported. His name was not released, and a Shaw spokesman in Sumter could not immediately be reached for more details.

The jet wreckage was not immediately located, WIS reported.Internet stake to allow diversityCOLUMBIA -- Carolina First Corp.'s investment arm has bought a 48 percent stake in a Columbia Internet site design company, its fifth technology business investment.

CF Investments Co. invested less than $500,000 in Syneractive Marketing. Greenville-based Carolina First continues to diversify into nontraditional banking business as it seeks new sources of revenue and growth.

The investment will allow Syneractive to expand and upgrade technology, chief executive Barbara Rackes said. The company employs 20 people and manages about 40 Internet sites.

The deal will allow Carolina First to create more Internet services and products, President Mack Whittle said.Slaying suspect dies in crashGREENVILLE -- A man accused of murder in Florida has died in Greenwood County after he crashed a stolen car in a three-county pursuit, authorities said.

Randolph Schmitt, 33, died Wednesday after a car chase in which vehicles reached 90 mph, Greenville County sheriff's Sgt. Lee Owens said.

Deputies received a tip about 2:30 a.m. that Mr. Schmitt was in the Forest Acres area of the county. He apparently had wrecked his car and was knocking on doors looking for transportation, Sgt. Owens said.

Mr. Schmitt went to a video-gambling hall and stole the clerk's car, Sgt. Owens said. Mr. Schmitt fired several shots through the door after the clerk locked him out, but no one was injured, Sgt. Owens said.

Deputies had been chasing the car about 30 minutes when Mr. Schmitt lost control on U.S. Highway 25 and crashed down an embankment. He died at the scene, officials said.

Mr. Schmitt was accused of killing acquaintance Crystal Holmes, 30, in front of her son in Gainesville, Fla., on Friday. He had been on the run since then, police there said. Authorities expected Mr. Schmitt to come to Greenville, where he had family and friends.

The Greenwood County coroner's office said it will conduct an autopsy today to determine the cause of death.University unveils new centerCHARLESTON -- A $36.7 million outpatient center for the Medical University of South Carolina has been unveiled.

The university expects 1,000 patients a day and more than 6,000 surgeries a year at Rutledge Tower, the former Bon Secours-St. Francis Xavier Hospital.

The 10 stories devoted to patient care merge new technology with clinics that were scattered around seven sites on campus.

Medical University clinics ran out of space, and patients sometimes had to sit in halls outside jammed waiting rooms, Dr. Johnson said.

Former hospital rooms now serve as about 250 examining rooms, most with a city view, bathroom and computer for doctors.

A heated and air-conditioned passage over the street connects the tower to the Children's Hospital, which in turn links to the main medical center. That will make it faster and easier for patients who have to be admitted and for staff to make an expected 3,800 trips a day.