Twitter @ScottRouch or @ValerieRowell
Harlem residents will miss Homer Gay, the Tracy-Luckey plant manager killed Friday following an air compressor explosion.
A 2-inch pipe struck Gay, 70, in the head at the Harlem pecan processing plant, said Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins.
"Everybody in Harlem pretty much knew Mr. Homer," Harlem City Councilman Gregg Stokes said. "It's got us all at a loss for words."
The Appling man was working on an air compressor Friday morning when he noticed a leak, Collins said.
"He told people to get away from it, and he turned to walk away from it" when the pipe blew off and hit Gay in the right side of the head, Collins said.
It doesn't surprise Stokes that Gay was trying to get others away from a dangerous situation when the accident happened.
"That's in his nature," Stokes said.
Harlem Mayor Bobby Culpepper said Gay attended Harlem High School and believes that Tracy-Luckey was his first and only job. He's worked there since 1958.
"He knew everything about the business," Culpepper said. "He knew more than anybody else. ... He took a lot of pride in it."
Stokes, who knew "Mr. Homer" his entire life, described him as soft-spoken and never heard him say a bad word about anyone. Even though he lived in Appling, Gay was a Harlem mainstay.
"We're used to seeing him in town. He rides through and always waves at everybody," Stokes said. "He was something else. You don't find people like him much any more."
Tracy-Luckey employees refused to comment on the accident Friday afternoon and messages left for CEO Ruth Tracy were not immediately returned.
Harlem Department of Public Safety Chief David Sward referred all questions to Collins.
Gay's body will be taken to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab Saturday for autopsy.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was notified of the fatality Friday and sent a compliance officer from its Atlanta office to begin an inspection.
OSHA is the main federal agency charged with the enforcement of safety and health regulations in workplaces.
"What we're looking for is whether the incident involved any violations of OSHA standards," said Mike Wald, regional director for public affairs for the U.S. Department of Labor. "It's hard to say at this point how long the inspection will take based on the complexities of the issues."
Wald added that the inspection would likely take weeks to complete, and a final report would be filed at that time.
If OSHA violations are found, Tracy-Luckey could be cited and fined.