Friends and family remember North Bryan resident Byron Singleton as a fine young man and a hard worker who died far too soon.
The 26-year-old Imperial Sugar Refinery employee will be laid to rest Saturday at Boyds’ Temple Cemetery on Mill Creek Road in Black Creek, following a service at First Baptist Church of Pembroke.
The service is open to the public and is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
Singleton lost his life in the Feb. 7 explosion at the Port Wentworth plant, where he was working the night shift. The explosion injured more than 80 employees and killed eight.
Singleton did not make it out of the building and his body was recovered this week, ending an extensive search.
He was a 2001 graduate of Bryan County High School. Former Principal Kay Hughes described him as an exceptional person.
"Byron was a good student, a good athlete, well manner and very charming. He was a pleasure to have on campus," Hughes said.
Singleton played football and basketball for the Redskins. Redskins’ football coach and athletic director Ron Lewis also remembers Byron as a fine young man who was a pleasure to coach.
"He played football for me his senior year and it was the first year I coached here," said Lewis. "He worked hard and did whatever we asked of him on and off the field. He’s from a really fine family and I enjoyed coaching him. It is truly a sad loss."
In the 2001 BCHS Annual, Byron’s senior quote reads, "We are never promised a tomorrow. Live today as if it were your last."
According to friends and family that is just what Singleton did.
They say he loved going to the movies, spending time with friends and family and listening to music. Singleton had been
employed at the refinery for slightly more than two years and was working the swing shift as a machine operator.
"He was very proud on his job," said his mother, Erica Singleton. "He worked hard, picked up extra shifts and never complained."
According to his mother, the officials at Imperial Sugar have been very good about keeping the family informed and have been very kind and supportive.
She said many of Singleton’s co-workers and their family members have called to share their sorrow and sympathy with the Singleton family.
"Our phones have been ringing non-stop with kind words, thoughts and prayers. We are so thankful for the support," she said.
Her son leaves behind eight brothers, six sisters and two young sons, Josef A. Singleton and Byron Singleton, Jr.
"He loved to spend time with his family," said Mrs. Singleton. "He would teach the young ones how to drive and talk about music with everyone."
About a year ago Singleton learned to play the organ and had been playing in church at Boyd’s Temple where his father, Mr. C.C. Singleton is the preacher. According to his family he was raised in the church and God played an important role in his life.
"I lost his older brother shortly after giving birth, so being able to have Byron was a blessing. Then to have him be such a kind, gentle, humble and loving son, I couldn’t of asked for more," his mother said. "His brothers and sisters are all heart broken by his loss. They have all pulled together with the rest of our family to support me and their father. Byron will be sadly missed but his wonderful memories will always be with us."
As the tragedy has unfolded, Bryan County Director of Emergency Services Jim Anderson said county crews continued to help in whatever ways possible.
"We’ve been down at the command post all week with the Bryan County Emergency Command Vehicle and we’re hoping to be able to bring that back home today," Anderson said Friday. "It’s looking better here and the blazes in the silos are out now. They’re starting to transition; it’s moving into the process of winding down."
Others in the community also have been moved to help.
On Thursday, 14 Hendrix Park Youth Super Soccer League players pulled together to raise money. The young athletes held a change drive before their games to benefit the employees of the refinery.
The HP Soccer drive was so well received that it will be carried over to include some of the park's basketball games and next week’s soccer games.
"So far we have raised approximately $200," said Soccer Director Bryan Woods. "The explosion has directly affected a number of families whose kids are playing soccer with us. All the kids wanted to try to help out in some way. Since it was Valentines Day, a day that sweetness, love and sharing are symbols of, we thought it would be a great time to share and try to help others."
North Bryan businesses Pembroke Telephone Company, Burnsed Paint & Body Shop and Triad Supply and Services, Inc. have all agreed to match the funds raised by the youth. All donations will then be sent to the United Way/ SunTrust Bank account to benefit the employees affected by the Imperial Sugar Explosion.
If you are interested in making a donation, please call Woods at 667-7998.
You can also make general donations to help the families of refinery employees through the United Way of the Coastal Empire. The United Way is asking that donations include the memo "Victims of Imperial Sugar Fire," to ensure the money is correctly directed. Donations can be sent to 428 Bull Street, Savannah GA 31201, 651-7700, www.uwce.org. The United Way said 100 percent of all donations will go directly to the families of these local victims.
Donations can also be sent to the Imperial Sugar Company via their ISC Savannah Associate Relief Fund, c/o Frost Bank, P.O. Box 9, Sugar Land, TX 77487-0009.
Imperial said the company will match all their employees’ donations.
Here’s a list of the blast victims so far, as reported by Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan police:
Paul Seckinger, Mckinley Habersham, Darien Brown, James Ferguson, Michael Sansale, Lawrence Manker, Gene Bryan, Malcolm Frasier, Matthew Freeman, David Mayes, Justin Pernel, Shameir Frasier, Lorne Gilbert, Kenneth Wynn, James Butler, Troy Bacon, Rachel Islas, Patricia Grant-Singleton, Darien Brown, John Butler, Walter Maxwell, Steven Way, Johnny Hickman, David Byrnes, Calvin Bryant, Refugio Garcia, Donald Farmer, Nakishya Hill, Amiel Foster, Alphonso Fields, Kijuanus Wright, Tomas Ordaz, Tomas Gratalez, Hilton Smith, Raquel Garcia, Patricia Proctor, Derrick Bing, Antonio Washington and Luis Trujillo.
- Reporter Jessica Holthaus contributed to this story.