Beaufort News

Spark leads to explosion that kills 2 in Jasper County

Two men were working on a truck Monday in a garage in Jasper County when a spark ignited, causing an explosion and fire that burned them to death, according to the county coroner.

Coroner Martin Sauls said Maurice Thomas, 21, and Harry Lee Drayton, 61, were using an electric drill under a pickup truck when the spark ignited flammable liquid shortly before 6 p.m.

Several vehicles were in the detached garage of a home at 872 Cohen Road, and gasoline fueled the fire, Sauls said. The home is in a rural section of Jasper County, about 15 miles northwest of Ridgeland.

"It was such an inferno in that place that it collapsed the (concrete block) walls of the building from the intense heat," he said. The men suffered third-degree burns over their entire bodies, Sauls said.

Two other people in the garage were able to escape, Sauls said.

It took about 20 minutes to put out the fire after the first firetruck arrived, county emergency services Deputy Chief Russell Wells said.

Wells said the building was an automotive garage, and there was "significant damage to the building."

Thomas and Drayton did not live in the home next to the garage, Jasper County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Roy Hughes said.

Drayton was from the Wagon Branch community of Ridgeland, and Thomas had lived in the area for the past several years but was originally from North Carolina, Hughes said.

Wells said county fire officials are assisting the Sheriff's Office and the S.C. Law Enforcement Division in the investigation to determine the specific cause and origin of the fire.

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