Factory Workers Laid Off After Fire

Workers wait to hear about the future of their jobs.
Workers wait to hear about the future of their jobs.

One Low Country firefighter remains in the hospital this evening after battling yesterday's fire at the Athena Marble Plant in Beaufort. The fire burned some chemicals that were in the building, causing some throat and skin problems for firefighters. Emergency vehicles rushed more than 40 of them to the hospital for treatment. Most were released right away. Only one is still in the hospital. Investigators still don't know how the fire started.

Now, Athena Marble has laid off a number of workers because of the fire. It's been a hectic two days for the management team; they've been trying to find work for their employees at one of their other plants in the area, but today they had to let ten employees go.

"This place is mine and my husband's life," said worker Sue Rewis.

Not only was it a building, where employees manufactured culture marble products, but a place where employees enjoyed working.

"It's a close-knit family atmosphere," said Rewis. "We all work together as a team."

Although a few sinks and tubs did survive the fire, the building was destroyed. And as the plant went up in smoke, so did a number of jobs. Athena has found work for about 20 of their 30 employees at their other departments in Beaufort, but had to lay off the others.

"Athena has never had a layoff, so this was very tough on all of us," said human resources representative Tammy Driscal. "We're a very tight-knit group. A lot of us have worked together for years."

Glen Voytek is among employees who have been temporarily laid off until the company can find more work.

"I'll be back. They can't get rid of me this quick," he joked.

"We're trying to take care of our customers and our employees the best of our ability," said Driscal.

Athena management tells WTOC they're hoping those employees will be back to work within a week or two, but in the meantime it's lost wages for them. Athena is considering building another marble manufacturing plant in the area, but no final decision has been made. The company is lining up products, trying to keep customers happy and employees working.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com