Originally created 03/25/01

Across the area



BEECH ISLAND
Driver hurt badly in tanker explosion

Paul Augustine, the driver of a tanker truck that exploded in an accident near Beech Island on Friday, remained in critical condition Saturday, a spokeswoman from Doctors Hospital said.

Mr. Augustine, 45, is being treated at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at the hospital. He suffers from third-degree burns on more than 20 percent of his body, according to the spokeswoman.

On Friday afternoon, Mr. Augustine's truck, which was carrying a load of diesel fuel and gasoline, overturned on South Carolina Highway 125 about 5:30 p.m. and burst into flames.

Officials cleared and reopened the road by 2 a.m. Saturday, said Lance Cpl. R.K. Hughes of the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

According to police reports, Mr. Augustine had edged his Mack truck off the right side of the road and overcompensated, causing the truck to slide into the median and overturn.

A witness who helped rescue Mr. Augustine said he believes the highway's lack of a wide asphalt median contributed to the accident because the wheel jerked when it went off the edge of the asphalt onto the grass.

Roger Larmer, 39, of Hephzibah, was driving his own fuel truck behind Mr. Augustine's before the accident. Mr. Larmer is being treated at Medical College of Georgia Hospital for smoke inhalation and was in good condition Saturday.

Beech Island Firefighter Kyle Ledbetter, 18, was taken to MCG after the accident when he was overcome by heat. He also was in good condition Saturday.

GEORGIA
Two sentenced in insurance fraud

ELBERTON - Two men who admitted defrauding their mentally disabled clients have been sentenced to probation and fines.

Investigators say Herbert Gaines and insurance agent Don Norman took out policies on as many as 20 residents at a group home overseen by the state Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse system.

Mr. Gaines was charged with reaping $10,000 in life insurance benefits from 52-year-old Talmadge Goss. Mr. Goss was admitted to an Elberton hospital suffering from starvation and severe dehydration in early 1996 and died there two weeks later.

Mr. Norman and Mr. Gaines admitted in Elbert County Superior Court last week that they lied about Mr. Goss' health when they took out the policy and that Mr. Gaines falsely claimed to be Mr. Goss' uncle to claim the benefits. They were sentenced to three years' probation each and ordered to pay $1,000 fines.

In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop fraud charges involving other residents of the group home who did not die, said Elbert County Assistant District Attorney Leon Jourolman.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Workers subdue man after robbery

COLUMBIA - Restaurant delivery workers and a newspaper worker chased and subdued a man who police later charged with strong-armed robbery Friday.

Police charged 41-year-old Frankie Brown after the lunch-hour chase.

They say Mr. Brown stole an envelope and pushed a woman at the Bank of America building just across from the Statehouse and state Supreme Court. Police said Mr. Brown thought that the empty envelope had money in it.

Jon Beym was delivering breakfast at the Bank of America building on Sumter Street when he heard a woman scream and saw Cecil Chatman, the building's security guard, chasing a man.

Mr. Beym, the guard and other delivery men helped subdue the man.

The man later got loose and threatened people with a needle and said he had AIDS before running toward the Statehouse with delivery men chasing him. A newspaper worker and delivery man subdued Mr. Brown and he was arrested as he tried to get into cars on the busy street between the Statehouse and Supreme Court.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Blast could have been devastating

GREENVILLE - Authorities say triple-murder suspect Michael Hilderbrand's plans to blow up his store could have blown up a city block.

Police found candles burning in Mr. Hilderbrand's gas-filled antiques business before they discovered the bodies of his wife, his stepdaughter and their son.

A Family Court Judge had ordered Mr. Hilderbrand to stay away from his estranged wife, Sandra. He entered the home and shot her four times in the head and shot 8-year-old Caitlin Williams and 5-year-old Michael Hilderbrand in the head. Mr. Hilderbrand later killed himself after a police chase in Virginia on March 7.

When police entered the antique shop he owned, they found candles burning and an open gas line.

Clemson University chemist Stephen Creager says the gas would have blown up with the force of 670 pounds of dynamite.

The force from the explosion could have been "enough to destroy a whole city block," said Greenville Fire Marshal Larry Godfrey.

The destruction "would have been massive," Greenville Sheriff Sam Simmons said.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Seized land added to state trust

COLUMBIA - Marion County land seized after a North Carolina marijuana smuggling bust has been added to land that the state will preserve through its Heritage Trust Program.

News that the Customs Service donated to the 201 acres to the trust on came Friday during a Department of Natural Resources board meeting.

The bottom land hardwood forest is about four miles south of Mullins and near other tracts that are in the Pee Dee Heritage Preserve, a site that offers public hunting, fishing, hiking, canoeing or kayaking.

Heritage Trust said the land is worth $60,276 and become part of the preserve's 10,026 acres.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Man found guilty in murder retrial

YORK - A jury found Bobby Lee Holmes guilty late Friday of murder, criminal sexual assault, robbery and burglary in the 1989 attack that killed 86-year-old Mary Stewart in her York apartment.

The jury took six hours to return the verdict in Mr. Holmes' second trial on the charges. He was convicted first in 1993 and sentenced to death. The state Supreme Court said in January 1999 that Mr. Holmes should have been told he could address the jury and ordered a new trial.

Mr. Holmes addressed the jury in this trial. "This is tragic what happened to Ms. Stewart and everything, but I wasn't the one who done it," said Mr. Holmes.

KENTUCKY
Airline looks to avoid strike

HEBRON - Comair's president is joining contract talks between the regional airline and its pilots union in hopes of heading off a pilots' strike just after midnight tonight.

Comair President Randy Rademacher said the airline will decide by 3 p.m. today whether to cancel flights from 12:01 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to give passengers time to arrange flights on other airlines. That would amount to canceling 740 of the airline's 815 daily departures in a system that serves about 25,000 passengers daily.

Comair, a Delta Air Lines subsidiary, operates two daily flights out of Augusta Regional Airport at 10:31 a.m. and 8:45 p.m.

Mr. Rademacher said Saturday that he was heading to Washington to join talks with federal mediators and negotiators for Comair and the Air Line Pilots Association.