Imperial Sugar, six months later

Machines are breaking up concrete to build a new foundation.
Machines are breaking up concrete to build a new foundation.

By Brooke Kelley - bio | email

PORT WENTWORTH, GA (WTOC) - Today marks exactly six months since the sugar refinery explosion and fire, but memories are still fresh of that tragic night in Port Wentworth.

And a lot has happened since the night of February 7, from the recovery efforts to now rebuilding the facility.

Most of us remember exactly what we were doing when we heard the terrible news, but no one more so than the people who were inside the plant that night and shortly afterward.

We went back to plant today to see exactly how far they've come, what's still left to be done and how the community of Port Wentworth is healing.

Breaking up concrete to build a new foundation, new sugar packaging equipment starting to arrive and Imperial Sugar employees are on site continuing to clean up.

While there is still some demolition going on at the refinery, there is some rebuilding. A new steel frame is on site for the new power supply station that will power the new refinery.

Despite all the rebuilding and looking toward the future today, many are looking back six months ago to a night that changed many lives forever.

Port Wentworth mayor Glenn Jones remembers the night of February 7 like it was yesterday.

"You'll always remember that night," said Jones. "Where you were, what you were doing, it's kind of like 9/11 that night."

Jones says the last six months have been extremely difficult. The sugar refinery has been a corner stone of Port Wentworth.

"That will always be a place in our history, always remember the people who lost their lives are friends of this community," said Jones.

Port Wentworth fire captain Wesley Bates was one of the first responders that night. "You think about it every time you pass it, every time you see it on the shelves," said Bates. "It doesn't need to be forgotten and we need to know that could happen at any given day, it could happen five minutes from now."

Captain Bates says just a few days ago, he was at the refinery for the first time in two months. "I couldn't believe how much work they have done, the fact they are rebuilding is good that they know how important they are to Port Wentworth and Savannah area," said Bates.

And how important they will continue to be for many years to come.

Today, 30 Imperial Sugar employees are graduating at Savannah Technical College with new certifications to run the new equipment that is arriving at the facility.