PORT WENTWORTH, GA (WTOC) - By now we know of the effort police, firefighters and other public safety workers put into trying to rescue those involved in the Imperial Sugar refinery explosion, but what about citizens who were nearby?
Joyce Baker had no idea her Thursday evening would end the way it did. She says she and her husband were leaving a community meeting in the Port Wentworth Courthouse when their lives were forever changed.
"I've never felt anything like that before because the ground just shook," said Baker.
They were right outside the entrance to the courthouse, very near the Imperial Sugar refinery, when one of the sugar storage silos exploded.
"We looked at the sugar refinery and saw everything shooting up in the air," said Baker.
Both Joyce and her husband have worked in the public safety field, so they didn't hesitate to rush down to the refinery to see what they could do to help.
"There wasn't time to think," she told us. "The only thing we could do was respond."
They were so close to the plant that she says they may have even been the first responders on the scene. But nothing could have prepared them for what they saw.
"I saw the men and they were badly burned and I went to grab my first aid kit and try to help them and comfort them," said Baker. "It was like walking into hell with all of that fire. It was one fireball and when you see these people coming out and they are dazed...it was just the fire and I don't believe that it has set in with me yet."
Shortly after, Joyce says other public safety workers arrived and took over. She is still stunned and saddened, but Baker says it will be a very long time before the images of this night will leave her mind.
Baker says she and her husband not only administered first aid, but comforted and consoled some of the workers they came across on site. And this was the first time she has witnessed anything of this magnitude.