At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 27 an explosion rattled the Swanson Center and left the building in flames, killing 28 and wounding many more.
“We received the call at around 10 a.m.” said Lynn Smith, Habersham EMA 911 coordinator, “As things progressed we were assisting additional units as well as the mobile coroner and Air Life Georgia 2.”
The first responders were on the scene almost immediately and the firefighters began by entering the building and getting the fire under control. As soon as the firefighters entered the building, the EMTs were prompted by members of the fire crew.
“If they’re dead, they’re dead,” said a fire deputy to the EMTs, “Don’t get tunnel vision. If they are just walking wounded or just holding their head, it’s better than dying so just get them out.”
The EMTs entered the building and immediately it was clear how serious this disaster was. EMTs accompanied by victims of the fire inside began to flow like a river from the building. The field outside of the center began to fill with victims, most burned but stable, but the more serious cases started to come more rapidly as the building was completely emptied.
“We have had over 100 injured,” said Captain Jeffrey Adams of the Habersham fire services, “Additionally, we have had 28 fatalities from the fire and explosion. About 29 were non-critical and 28 were critical. They have been transported to Haberham, Northeast Georgia, and one of the children’s hospitals.”
It is still unclear how the fire was started and a pending investigation will release their information in the next 24 to 48 hours.