Thousands Attend Funeral for Sugar Refinery Victim - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Thousands Attend Funeral for Sugar Refinery Victim

Saying goodbye to Earl Johnson. Saying goodbye to Earl Johnson.

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Despite the pouring rain, close to 2,000 people gathered at the Jonesville Baptist Church to mourn the death of one man, Earl Johnson. He died on February 7 in the explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth.

The 56-year-old left behind a daughter and son, five grandchildren, four brothers and three sisters.

Friends like Bruce Campbell remembered the good times. "Earl loved to cook, he cooked like he was cooking for a big family."

Johnson also considered his coworkers his family. He worked at Imperial Sugar for ten years. He lived in Garden City all his life.

Johnson's close friend and next-door neighbor said he never got a chance to say goodbye.

"I should have told Earl just how much I loved him," said Keith Mack. "I don't want you to make the same mistake I did."

Many of the mourners said Johnson's death is a reminder just how precious life is. "My heart is heavy now," said coworker Beverly O'Neal. "I just know God is going to heal all things and we are going to stick together."

The CEO of Imperial Sugar, John Sheptor, made that same promise--to stick together. "As the leader of this company I express my deep sympathies to the family and to this community and to all the families that have been so wounded by this event. I pledge my commitment to this community that we will restore that which was lost," Sheptor said.

Johnson was one of nine employees who died from the blast, one of nine who went to work just like any other day. He was a hardworking family man whose life was cut short.

"We love you Earl, but God loves you so much more. Rest on my brother," said O'Neal.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter,

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