Fire Destroys Georgia Retirement Community

Five Killed in Fiery Georgia Crash

Tractor-trailer struck two cars and burst into flames on I-16
RUSS BYNUM, Associated Press Published Thursday, May 21, 2015

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A couple traveling to celebrate back-to-back birthdays and a woman and her teenage cousin on their way to visit the girl's hospitalized father were among five people killed in a fiery crash on a Georgia interstate Tuesday afternoon.

A tractor-trailer smashed into two cars and burst into flames on I-16 west of Savannah. The crash happened on a busy stretch of the interstate near its junction with I-95, which spans the East Coast.

"It's just a traumatic shock for the whole family," said Linda Earnest, whose brother-in-law, 71-year-old Jerry Earnest of Varnell, perished in the crash along with his girlfriend, Glenda Adams, 72, of Cohutta.

Jerry Earnest and Adams both had birthdays earlier in the week, his sister-in-law said, and decided to celebrate by driving from their homes near the Georgia-Tennessee state line to spend several days in Savannah.

Wendy Melton, 39, of Reidsville was riding with her cousin, Brittanie Altman, 16, of Claxton and Virgil Moody, 19, of Hagan, when they were killed.

Melton's brother, Tray Riner, said she was driving Altman to visit her father who was hospitalized in an intensive care unit in Savannah. Melton worked as a waitress to support her six children, ages 9 to 23, Riner said.

"She was a devoted mother. Her world revolved around her kids and her two grandkids," Riner said. "Her children, they're all to pieces."

Riner said he didn't know Moody, the second passenger riding with Melton.

Traffic had been halted by construction in the area before the crash, and police said witnesses reported seeing the tractor-trailer drift between lanes before the crash. Authorities are investigating whether the truck driver fell asleep at the wheel, said Georgia State Patrol Sgt. 1st Class Chris Nease.

"That is a possibility that we're looking into, that he had dozed off," Nease said. "We don't know that for a fact."

State Patrol officials said the tractor trailer sideswiped one car and ran into the Hyundai that Melton and the two teens were riding in. The car carrying Melton and the two teens was knocked into the median, Nease said. Two of the victims were ejected.

Adams and Earnest died in a second vehicle that was crushed between the big truck and another eighteen-wheeler, Nease said.

Linda Earnest said her brother-in-law had retired from his job at a north Georgia carpet factory just a few months ago.

"He was a loving father and he loved golf and his family," she said.

The truck driver survived the crash without serious injuries. The State Patrol has said no charges will be filed until after its investigation is complete. The crash damaged seven vehicles and prompted lane closures near the freeway's meeting point with I-95.

Tuesday's deadly collision happened less than a month after another crash involving a tractor-trailer on I-16 that killed five nursing students from Georgia Southern University. The earlier wreck April 22 happened less than 20 miles west of Tuesday's crash.

"It's so eerily similar, looking at them overall, it's scary," Nease said. "The biggest problem with most people is they're just being inattentive and distracted, and not necessarily by cellphones. It can be anything."

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Associated Press
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Multiple police officers investigate a car involved in a multiple car accident on I-16 in Pooler, Ga. on Tuesday, May 19, 2015. (Ian Maule/Savannah Morning News via AP)
A tractor trailer sits on top of a crushed car after a multiple car accident on I-16 in Pooler, Ga. on Tuesday, May 19, 2015. (Ian Maule/Savannah Morning News via AP)


Plane Crashes onto Atlanta Interstate

Small plane crashes onto busy Atlanta interstate killing four people
Police look toward the wreckage of a plane crash on Interstate 285, Friday, May 8, 2015, in Doraville, Ga. Spokesman Capt. Eric Jackson of the DeKalb County Fire Department told reporters that four were onboard, and all died. He says the east-west highway is shut down in both directions. He says he doesn't know any details about where the plane was headed. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Published Friday, May 8, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) — A fire official says all four people onboard a small plane that crashed into a busy Atlanta interstate have been killed.

The plane crashed into Interstate 285 after taking off from an Atlanta-area airport Friday morning.

Spokesman Capt. Eric Jackson of the DeKalb County Fire Department told reporters that four were onboard, and all died. He says the east-west highway is shut down in both directions. He says he doesn't know any details about where the plane was headed.

The plane was a Piper PA-32. It departed from DeKalb Peachtree Airport.

Names of those onboard have not been released.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

USFA: Cardiac Arrest Claims Georgia Lieutenant

Swainsboro fire officer suffered cardiac arrest while at a structure fire
United States Fire Administration Published Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The U.S. Fire Administration has announced the official on-duty death of Lieutenant Ricky Thurman, 54, of the Swainsboro Fire Department on May 4, 2015.

While operating at the scene of a structure fire on April 24, 2015 Lieutenant Thurman suddenly went into cardiac arrest.  Immediate efforts to revive Lt. Thurman were successful and he was airlifted to Regents University Hospital in Augusta, Georgia where he passed away on May 4, 2015.

Tribute is being paid to Lieutenant Ricky Thurman at http://apps.usfa.fema.gov/firefighter-fatalities/
 
To date, 32 firefighter fatalities have been reported to USFA in 2015.  Year-to-date and annual USFA firefighter fatality reports are posted online at http://apps.usfa.fema.gov/firefighter-fatalities/fatalityData/statistics

 
Fatality status is provisional and may change as USFA contacts State Fire Marshals to verify fatality incident information.

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To date, 32 firefighter fatalities have been reported to USFA in 2015.

Low Water Pressure at Georgia Apartment Fire

DeKalb County fire had reports of people trapped and a water pressure problem
MIKE MORRIS and JOHN SPINK, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Published Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Firefighters battling an apartment fire that started before daybreak Monday had to work with less than ideal water pressure, said DeKalb fire officials.

The two-alarm blaze destroyed a three-story building at the Walden Pond complex on Shellbark Road, just north of I-20 between Panola and Wesley Chapel roads. No injuries were reported, but nearly 15 people were displaced.

DeKalb fire Capt. Eric Jackson said a report of an apartment fire with possible entrapment came in shortly after 5 a.m.

Arriving crews found "heavy smoke and flames coming from the center core of this townhome building with extension through the roof," Jackson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"We were initially told that there were entrapments, so we quickly deployed our firefighters to the front and the back side to see if we could locate these individuals that were either entrapped or on the verge of jumping," Jackson said. "We could not locate either one of the two, so we redeployed our firefighters back to fighting this fire."

Jackson said the 50 to 60 firefighters on the scene "did have some challenges" due to lower water pressure on the cul-de-sac where the burning building was located.

"We did have water, and we were able to apply that water to the fire, but it wasn't the pressure we would have liked to supply our three aerial trucks that are here," he said.

One of three dogs, which belonged to resident Sajada Bey's family, was believed to have perished, but Jackson said it survived despite being chained to a balcony. It suffered a few scratches and a burn on its nose. Another was reportedly found in the woods by a neighbor. A third was saved as the family escaped.

Bey, who moved in with her daughter about a month ago, said she first heard a loud banging on her door before realizing there was a fire.

"At first, I didn't answer the door, but then I heard the banging again," she said. "I opened the curtain and I saw the fire, and I jumped up and hollered to my daughter, so we could get all the children out."

"All the children are safe, and we're safe, our neighbors are safe, and it's a blessing," she said. "It doesn't matter if we lost everything, we are alive."

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Copyright 2011 Lexus Nexus. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Atlanta Firefighters Injured in Crash

Lab Fire Shuts Down CDC Georgia Campus

Rubella lab fire likely caused by an equipment malfunction
MIKE MORRIS, The Atlanta Journal Constitution Published Friday, March 27, 2015

A laboratory building on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's DeKalb County campus was closed Wednesday because of an overnight fire in a rubella lab, a CDC spokesman said.

The fire broke out around midnight in Building 18, CDC spokesman Thomas Skinner said.

"No one was injured and there was no release or loss of containment of any germs," Skinner told Channel 2 Action News in an email.

While the cause of the fire is under investigation, "early indications point to a piece of laboratory equipment that malfunctioned," he said.

Skinner said the building, which houses 470 employees working on rubella, measles, mumps, HIV, meningitis, hepatitis, norovirus and other pathogens, will remain closed as officials assess the extent of damage.

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Former Atlanta Fire Chief Files Civil Rights Lawsuit

Cochran’s lawsuit against city is separate from discrimination complaint
KATIE LESLIE, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Published Friday, February 20, 2015

Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Mayor Kasim Reed and the city, saying he was terminated last month because of his religion.

Attorneys with faith-based nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, who are representing Cochran, filed the suit in a U.S. District Court Wednesday. They say Cochran's self-authored religious book, which contained controversial passages about homosexuality, cost him his job.

The lawsuit is a separate legal proceeding from a federal discrimination complaint Cochran filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January. And it comes on the heels of a Feb. 10 letter sent by U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk and several other Republican members of the Georgia delegation to Reed, saying it "appears" the mayor violated "fundamental principles of free speech and religious freedom" when he terminated Cochran.

Former Atlanta Fire Chief Files Discrimination Complaint

"It was clear he was fired for his faith, and firing a public employee because he doesn't pass a religious test is blatantly unlawful," ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman told reporters on Wednesday. "Think about how dangerous a concept this is, that someone can be fired if their religious beliefs differ from the city's."

A spokeswoman for Reed said the city will "vigorously defend" the decision. The mayor has repeatedly said Cochran's judgment --- and not his faith --- is why he was terminated after serving a 30-day suspension without pay.

"The totality of his conduct... reflected poor judgment and failure to follow clearly defined work protocols," spokeswoman Jenna Garland said in a statement Wednesday.

The decorated fire chief was ousted from Reed's administration in early January for what the mayor said was a breach in protocol in Cochran's decision to publish "Who Told You That You Are Naked?" At issue are passages within the 162-page book that describe homosexuality as a "sexual perversion" akin to bestiality.

Many decry the passages as offensive and anti-gay, while others see it as a valid expression of Cochran's religious beliefs.

Reed maintains that he fired Cochran because the chief didn't have the required clearance from the city's ethics office to publish the book, identified himself as the city's fire chief in its pages and then disobeyed his request to not speak publicly during a month-long suspension.

By distributing the book to a small number of employees, Cochran "risked sending a message to his staffers that they were expected to embrace his beliefs," Garland said.

The city found no evidence during its investigation of Cochran that his beliefs have played a role in his leadership.

The chief, who served under former Mayor Shirley Franklin and President Barack Obama, has since become the poster child for a religious liberty bill now under consideration in the Georgia General Assembly.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Cochran said he filed the legal challenge because of its broader implications.

"While I was fired for my faith ... it's ultimately not just about Kelvin Cochran," he said. "It's about the future of freedom of speech and freedom of religion in the United States of America."

In the 54-page lawsuit, the ADF asks Reed to reinstate the decorated fire chief and compensate him for lost wages.

Atlanta civil rights attorney Lee Parks believes Reed overstepped his legal authority, and what's called "prohibition against prior restraint," in saying Cochran must have received prior approval before publishing the book.

"In other words, the mayor can't issue a memo to the fire department to say: 'Before you [use] Twitter, check with me,'" Parks said.

He thinks Reed's argument that Cochran needed approval from the ethics office before pursuing an outside income venture "only works for them if they can show the outside venture violated ethics code. Authoring a book does not."

Parks, who specializes in discrimination and wrongful termination litigation, said Cochran has a compelling case.

"Do I think what Cochran said makes sense? No; it's despicable," Parks said. "But does he have a right to say it? Yeah, that's the whole point of the Constitution."

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Kelvin Cochran, right,who was fired from his position as Atlanta Fire Chief, listens as his attorney David Cortman answers questions at a press conference at the State Capitol on Wednesday Feb. 18, 2015 where he and his attorney announced that they had filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Atlanta. After a brief statement, Cochran let Cortman answer all questions directed at him. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ben Gray)

Funeral for Georgia Lieutenant

Video: Georgia Firefighters Allow Warehouse to “Burn Itself Out”

Safe approach taken during fire at Buford warehouse due to chemicals
Plus Media Solutions Published Friday, February 13, 2015

Firefighters outside Atlanta say they're allowing a fire at a massive warehouse outside Atlanta to "burn itself out."

Gwinnett County firefighters said firefighters are taking the approach at the Buford warehouse due to potential plumbing chemicals in the building and its former use as a tannery decades ago.

Fire department spokesman Tommy Rutledge says the building known as the Buford Tannery caught fire Tuesday evening and was already engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived.

Rutledge says a former plumbing business had occupied part of the building.

Rutledge says no one was inside the building when the fire began and no injuries have been reported. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

 

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