Athens, GA Store, Service Station Explosion, Jan 1978
FIVE DIE, STORE LEVELED IN GEORGIA EXPLOSION.
Athens, Ga. (UPI) -- Five persons were killed Friday in an explosion and fire that leveled a rural general store and service station north of Athens.
Investigators from the State Fire Marshal's office joined local police and firemen today in trying to determine the cause of the explosion. The Clarke County Police Department said the blast apparently originated inside Jerry's Grocery Store, not at the gasoline pumps, where owner JERRY BROWN was said to have been pumping gas into an automobile tank.
Police identified the victims as JIMMY RAY TURNBULL, 26, of Hull; THOMAS KEITH FLOYD, 59, of Royston; JOHNNIE SUE BROWN, 34, of Hull, the store owner's wife; GEORGE STEWART SR., 58, of Athens and WILLIE STRICKLAND, 43, of Athens.
HOMER LEE AYERS, 36, of Athens was admitted to St. Mary's Hospital with undetermined injuries and BROWN was treated and released following the blast.
The explosion occurred about 4:20 p.m., knocking out telephone service to about 500 customers in the area.
DAVID SMITH, who lived next to the store, said he was watching television when he heard it.
"Just about the time I got to the door I saw a car go off the road. I imagine the explosion blew the car off the road," SMITH said.
"I ran on up there and saw JERRY (BROWN), who is the owner of the store," said SMITH.
"JERRY at the time was pumping gas in a car and I think it blew him away from it. JERRY tried to go back in for his wife but he couldn't make it because it happened so fast."
SMITH said the walls of the store were blown out and the roof caved in.
Chronicle Telegram Elyria Ohio 1978-01-28