Firefighters put out blazes at silos

Associated Press
Workers with the Williams Fire Suppression company check a pump sending water from the Savannah River to the fire site.

PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. --- Firefighters finally managed to douse the last remnants of the deadly sugar refinery blast Thursday, a week after the fires that claimed at least eight lives ignited.

Seven people have been found dead in the rubble at the Imperial Sugar Co. plant in Port Wentworth, and one worker remained missing.

Sugar dust is thought to be the cause of the Feb. 7 blast. Emergency crews were able to snuff out the fire at the plant's main building Wednesday, but the blaze persisted at the refinery's 80-foot silos until Thursday.

Local crews called in a specialized team with powerful equipment to assault the silo fires, where thick masses of molten sugar were still smoldering even after a helicopter dumped thousands of gallons of water.

The team extinguished the stubborn blazes using a mix of foam and water that lowered the temperatures inside the silos from as high as 4,000 degrees to below 70 degrees, said Port Wentworth Fire Chief Greg Long.

Emergency workers were able to pull a seventh body out of the second-floor break room Wednesday, leaving one body remaining. Authorities believe the last body is in a 200-square-foot area in the room, which they hope to soon explore.

"We anticipate the search and recovery efforts to be completed, hopefully by dark today," Chief Long said.

Local authorities and the company have withheld the names of the victims. But relatives have shared the names of four victims. They are: Earl Quarterman Sr., 55, and Eric Barnes, 56, both of Savannah; Earl Johnson, 56, of Garden City; and Byron Singleton, 26, of Ellabell.

Mr. Singleton, a machine operator, was the 12th child of 15, his family said.

"His hopes and dreams were to become a family man, go to church and live for the Lord, to stay a positive role model for the younger people and just do what he knew was right," his mother, Erica Singleton, told The Savannah Morning News .

The refinery is on a 160-acre site on the Savannah River upstream from Savannah. The plant is 872,000 square feet, and 111,000 square feet -- about 12 percent -- was destroyed.