Rowesville, SC Fireworks Truck Explosion, May 1983


Rowesville (AP) -- The devastating explosions that killed two people, injured five and damaged homes for miles around Tuesday many have been caused by fireworks loaded in a truck trailer, officials say.
Federal, state and local investigators were to return to the scene about 1 1/2 miles north of this Orangeburg County town today to continue trying to figure out the origin of the 3:50 p.m. blasts, which Orangeburg County Sheriff Vance Boone said damaged homes up to 2 1/2 miles away.
"It looked like an airplane came along and dropped a bomb," said county Disaster Preparedness Director William Crapps.
The explosions left at least three families homeless, said Boone.
The trailer about 250 yards off U.S. 21 may have been used as a "fireworks factory," an investigator at the scene who asked not to be identified told The State newspaper.
Crapps said investigators thought the parked trailer was loaded with fireworks and perhaps some dynamite. He said he had been told the blasts may have been touched off by HERBERT BRANHAM when he lit a match too near the explosives. Hundreds of cylindrical cardboard casings of the type used to make M-80 fireworks littered the lot.
Orangeburg County Coroner Paul Simmons said there was not enough left of the two bodies to make positive identifications. He said the chest of one of the victims was found more than 250 feet away in a wheat field.
However, Boone said it was believed one of the dead was BRANHAM, who owned a mobile home destroyed by the explosions.
"His wife is one of the injured and she has assured us that he was in the buildings," Boone said.
Investigators still were retrieving pieces of the two corpses shortly before sundown. Simmons said the remains would be sent to the Medical University of South Carolina at Charleston today for positive identification.
Three children were treated and released for cuts and bruises Tuesday, while their 33-year-old mother, CHARLOTTE BRANHAM, remained in stable condition at the hospital this morning.

Aiken Standard South Carolina 1983-05-25



I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was one of the kids in that trailer along with my brother and sister. It was the scariest day of my life. I thought my mother was dead. Thanks to a lady named Mary Dixon who pulled us out that day before the second explosion.