Refinery victims on blast, recovery

Shameir Frazier
Shameir Frazier
Darien Brown
Darien Brown

By Melanie Ruberti - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Many of the first responders, victims and families of the Imperial Sugar explosion continue to struggle, trying to cope with the memory of that night.

Throughout the days and weeks after the blast, we talked with many them and today, they are making their way along the difficult road to closure.

A few pictures and thousands of memories of her brother is all Sondra Barnes has left to cling to. His smiling face brings back the joy and the pain of how he died.

Eric Barnes was at work the night of February 7, 2008. He was in the break room when the refinery exploded.

"My niece called my mother," said Sondra. "She was yelling and screaming, 'my daddy's gone.'"

Eric's death hit the family right away even though they didn't get confirmation of it until days later.

"He was victim seven and it was a week later when they found him," she said. "Just waiting and waiting. We knew he was gone, but we just needed the words said, 'he's gone.' And that was hard."

Sondra and the family immediately surrounded themselves in the church, sitting in the same pew Eric would every Sunday morning. It's where they'll be this weekend too, celebrating his life one year later.

"It's good to remember the good times that we have with my brother and the crazy times instead of dwelling on his death," said Sondra. "The Lord reached down and took him home."

For Shameir Frazier and Darien Brown, it's been a year of determination and hard work.

"Basically we're trying to do exercises," said Shameir. "Trying to build up my strength and my mobility."

Both were badly burned the night of the explosion, memories that are still hard to erase from their mind just a year later.

"As soon as I started cleaning up, it just blew up," described Shameir. "It was something I've never seen in my life before and I never want to see again. I'm seeing people on fire, the smell."

For Shameir and Darien, rehab three times a week has healed most of the scars on the outside, but the emotional healing is still a work in progress.

"I'm trying to cope with everything that happened," said Shameir. "I turn to the Bible and I read this and learn about stuff about this. This is what helps me make it through all my trials and tribulations."

"I just take it one day at a time," said Darien. "It's a hard time, a hard thing to deal with."

Darien believes he has come to terms with the explosion and the aftermath.

"What's done is done," he said. "He kept you here for a reason, so you just have to find your reason. It made us all stronger inside. It let you know that you can take a lot. More than you think you can take. But it's all of the grace of God."

And it's that same grace all three families will turn toward again as they remember their coworkers, loved ones and friends who didn't make it home.

"It makes you look at life a lot differently," said Darien. "It makes you tell the people that you love, you love them a lot more. Because you never know when you'll get another chance too."

All three families said they plan on being at the memorial service Saturday at Legacy Park in Port Wentworth.

Both Shameir Frasier and Darien Brown say they hope to enroll in college in the near future.