Atmore native killed in explosion
Published 6:41 am Wednesday, April 6, 2005
By by Lee Weyhrich
Though Atmore native Tommy Jarvis left Atmore nearly 30 years ago, his friends and family still mourn his death.
Jarvis, 47, was working at Intertape Polymer in Columbia, S.C. when a boiler exploded, killing Jarvis and leveling the building he was in.
According to his brother Danny Lowery, Jarvis was born in Atmore and graduated from Escambia Academy in 1977. After graduation Jarvis entered the Marine Corps where he served for 20 years before retiring. Jarvis worked at Intertape Polymer the last eight years of his life.
"He graduated here and there are a lot of people here that knew him," Lowery said.
Jarvis worked alone shoveling coal and maintaining the boiler. The explosion that killed him is still under investigation.
"We don't know exactly what caused the explosion and they (authorities) don't either right now," Lowery said. "He was working in the boiler room and there was an explosion. He was killed by the explosion."
Jarvis was the only person caught up in the blast. According to his brother, everyone else in the factory was on the other side of the plant. There were no other injuries.
"He had a wife and two children," Lowery said. "He was the only one in the factory hurt. He was pretty much burned beyond recognition. They had to identify him by dental records."
Jarvis' death may lead to new regulations on boiler safety.
"The interesting thing is that the State of South Carolina has no regulations on boilers," Lowery said. "There are mechanical engineers that are trying to pass legislation to put safety regulations on boilers in South Carolina."
A previously released report said that boiler law supporters are unsure whether boiler inspection laws would have saved Jarvis' life, but they do believe his death will push legislation forward.
South Carolina is the only state that does not have boiler safety regulations. According to previously published sources a bill has been sponsored which would create a boiler registry and a chief inspector. Similar bills, however, have been shot down almost every year since 1976.
The plant had not had a safety inspection since 1990, but there had been no fatal accidents in over 25 years.
The factory, which makes tape and shrink wrap, generated its own electricity. The boiler was part of that power generation process.
Reports state that similar explosions have occurred in the past decade, but this is the only fatality in that span of time. In 1997, the boiler caught fire at Middle Carolina High School. In 1999, a boiler exploded at Summerville High School. There were no injuries in either case.
This latest explosion, however, can not boast such luck.
Jarvis is survived by his wife Betty, her son and daughter, and his son and daughter from his first marriage.
The funeral was Sunday at Lexington, S.C. His internment will be in Ontario, Calif.