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Results of PSC probe of gas fire could be weeks away

A SHRINE OF FLOWERS, BALLOONS, POEMS AND PHOTOS SURROUND A WOODEN CROSS where Wendell Harrison was killed while working on a natural gas line last week.

The Georgia Public Service Commission will likely take several weeks to complete its investigation into last week’s tragic natural gas fire that claimed the life of City of Cairo employee Wendell Harrison.
“We are trying to determine what happened, who was at fault,” said Bill Edge, public information officer for the PSC during a telephone interview Tuesday. Edge said staff for the PSC is conducting the investigation, and will make their recommendations to the PSC board of commissioners, who will determine what, if any, penalties need to be levied. “There’s no set time frame on this type of thing, but a matter of weeks probably,” he said of when the investigation may wrap up.
Investigators for the state regulatory agency have interviewed city crews connected to the accident, according to Chris Addleton, Cairo city manager.
Addleton said three gas crew workers burned during the accident on Fourth Avenue Northwest the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 28, are no longer in the hospital. He said Peter Garland had not returned to work, but was unsure if Jay Spence and Tony Hudson were back on the job. Addleton said the PSC investigation will reveal just how those three men were burned.
As the PSC investigation moves forward, the city is allowed to continue to conduct its natural gas business as normal. However, Addleton said he has limited work to “what we absolutely have to do.” He said Thomasville’s city gas crew, which repaired the gas line at the scene Thursday after the PSC released the site, remains on standby if needed.
A week after the tragedy, Addleton said the family of city employees is “coping.” Counseling is still available for city workers through Archbold Memorial Hospital’s Employee Assistance Program. “Our people know they can still utilize that service for grief counseling,” Addleton pointed out.
Addleton said he also wants to remind workers that safety is a priority, and Tuesday he met with staff, supervisors and crew leaders for a discussion on the issue. “I just wanted them to know that from the top, from the Mayor and council, that safety is the first thing. I wanted to communicate that to them,” he explained.
The gas crew workers were attempting to repair a gas leak when the fire erupted.
Information from Decatur-Grady 911 provide more concrete information on the timing of events last Tuesday.
The first call in to 911 about the accident happened at 11:25:49. In all, four citizens in the area called 911 about the fire.
Cairo Fire, Grady EMS and Cairo Police Department were dispatched at 11:26:12. Within 50 seconds Cairo Police were en route at 11:27:01; Grady EMS was en route at 11:27:56; and Cairo Fire was rolling at 11:28:05.
Cairo Police cars began arriving at the scene at 11:27:43, with four of the five remaining there until nearly 4:30 p.m.
Fire units began arriving at 11:30:19, first with Grady Fire Coordinator Wayne Hadden then Grady Rescue 1 at 11:31:53. Although Cairo Fire did not advise the time they arrived on the scene, they had traffic with another unit indicating they were on Fourth Street at 11:30:47, according to Tonya Griffin, director of Decatur-Grady 911. Cairo Fire’s command at the scene ended at 2:24:26, and all fire units returned to the station, Griffin said.
Grady EMS arrived at the scene at 11:30:08, and left to take a patient to Tallahassee at 11:59:11. A second ambulance was en route to the scene at 11:58:26. That ambulance left the scene at 12:55:17 with Harrison.

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