Six years later, survivor remembers Imperial Sugar blast - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Six years later, survivor remembers Imperial Sugar blast

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Brothers Jamie Butler, 25, and John Butler Jr., 35, were working at the Imperial Sugar refinery the night of Feb. 8, 2008.

They were on shift along with their cousin, 54-year-old Alphonso Fields.

It was 7:15 and 17 seconds. Jamie had just come back from his break.

"Then once I clock in, I put on my gloves and turn on the radio," Jamie remembered in an interview Friday. "I heard it coming, and I looked, and I seen it coming right through the doors and stuff. I seen like the fires and the fire bomb, and when I got up, everything was dark."

He got up and tried to find his way out, but he couldn't get his bearings.

"Everything was like blown apart, and had holes in the wall and stuff."

He found his brother, John, lying on the ground. They walked out together, sat down and waited for help.

"The last thing he told me was 'I'm alright,'" Jamie said. "He was like, ‘Is you alright?' I was like, ‘Yeah.' He told the people he couldn't breathe."

John was loaded in an ambulance. Jamie was put in another and lost consciousness.

He wouldn't wake up for three months.

At their home in West Savannah, the brothers' parents, Carrie Butler and John Butler Sr., could hear sirens -- ambulances and fire trucks getting on the highway.

John Jr. called.

"He said something had happened, but tell his wife that I love her," John Sr. remembers. "I think the phone went dead then."

When she got to the hospital, Carrie Butler found her childrens' faces unrecognizable.

"I was always able to tell my kids by their feet," she said. "And that's the way I was able to tell my two boys."

The brothers and their cousin Alphonso, a man they called "uncle," were flown to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta. Carrie and John followed.

Then they waited, for nearly two weeks.

Carrie Butler waited for the next moment she could go inside her sons' and nephew's rooms.

"Maybe the doctor would say their vital signs are good," she said. "And by the time you get out, they're calling a code, and you realize it's one of yours."

On Feb. 23, 2008, Alphonso Fields died.

John Jr. Died three days later. He left behind a wife and six children.

Jamie lay in a medically induced coma and dreamed of fire.

"The first couple of months it was just explosions and like different little stuff going on and different other stuff like basically trying to survive dying every night."

The dreams got better he said, of a fishing trip with his brother and father in which his brother was taken up to the sky.

Carrie and John Sr. tried not to let on anything was wrong. The doctors said Jamie could hear them, could sense their tone.

"When we came from the funeral, we just stayed long enough to bury my son," Carrie said. "And we went back to the other son to tell him we love him and that everything was alright."

Doctors woke Jamie up in April. A week before he went home, his parents told him his brother had died.

"We don't hold no animosity towards nobody," John Butler Sr. said. "But we think these could've been done differently."

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