Tracy-Luckey officials Monday were still mourning the loss of plant manager Homer Gay.
Gay, 70, who worked at the Harlem pecan processing plant for 53 years, died after being hit in the side of his head with a 2-inch pipe, said Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins after receiving results from a Saturday autopsy at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab.
“We are mourning the loss of what we consider a family member and we are just in shock,” Tracy-Luckey official Ed Wicker said Monday. “He was definitely an employee that was a family member to all of us.”
Tracy-Luckey officials had declined to comment immediately after the incident.
Harlem Department of Public Safety Director David Sward refused to comment on a rumor that Tracy-Luckey officials and their families were threatened regarding Gay’s death, though he confirmed that investigators are preparing a report that he said would be available today.
Sward referred questions about Friday’s accident to Columbia County sheriff’s Investigator Stephanie Carani, who was called in Friday to investigate the incident.
Carani said some contracted workers were installing a new air compressor at the plant in downtown Harlem. They were attempting to stop a leak when a safety officer of the contracted companies or Tracy-Luckey approached and said, “Y’all need to get back or somebody’s going to get killed.”
Carani said the few contracted employees and Gay turned to walk away from the compressor. He took two steps before the pipe from the compressor blew off and hit him.
“It was a freak accident,” Carani said.
Gay, a Harlem High School graduate, worked at the plant starting in 1958.
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.
An OSHA inspection into the incident would likely take weeks to complete, and a final report would be filed at that time, according to Mike Wald, regional director for public affair for the U.S. Department of Labor.
If OSHA violations are found, Tracy-Luckey could be cited and fined.