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TRAFFIC OFFICER KNOCKED DOWN BY CAR
Friday Fire Destroys Dental Lab , Jewelry Shop In Calabash
BY SUSAN USHER
A man from Elon College was eating dinner Friday
evening at Beck's Restaurant in Calabash when he heard
a loud noise, looked out the window and saw the build
ing south of the restaurant "exploding" and on fire.
"It was a real loud explosion," recalled Wayne Allen.
"At first ! thought it was a wreck. Then 5 saw the flic.
There was a big fireball. It started at the far end of the
The heat explosion blew out the front window of the
Cypress Jewelry and Repair Shop and lifted the roof of
the brick building long enough for walls to fall away,
Brunswick County Fire Marshal Cecil Logan said after
ward. "Then the roof set back down."
Incident commander Tondra Scott, first captain with
Calabash Volunteer Fire Department, said the blaze
started when the ballast in a recessed fluorescent light at
the shop short-circuited and caught fire.
The fire destroyed both the jewelry shop and the adja
cent Cypress Dental Laboratory.
Scott said the fire was reported by a bystander who
came out of Callahan's Nautical Gifts and was walking
across the parking lot around 5:30 p.m. when he heard a
"small popping sound like an explosion." Then, like
Allen, he saw and heard the front window blow out.
The two businesses had been owned and operated for
the past six years by Brenda and LarTy Harris. The fire
marked Mr. Harris's 50th birthday. The former UCB
branch office building was owned by Ruth Beck.
Logan said he determined the cause of the fire
through a process of elimination after investigators saw
that the roof had burned through in several places. They
found no wiring problems, but found a fluorescent light
fixture with melted tar in its base. The tar melts only
when the ballast it encases fails and is overheated by
electrical current. Normally ballast provides the starting
voltage or stabilizes the electrical circuit in a fluorescent
iigni. Bailasi gone bad is a common cause of fires in
older buildings, said Logan.
"The explosion was caused by the continued build-up
of heat inside," he said. "It was built for a bank and it
was apparently built pretty tight."
Mrs. Harris said the two businesses had closed
Wednesday for the Thanksgiving holiday.
One firefighter received minor injuries, but not from
the fire itself. Volunteer Henry Opperman was directing
traffic at the stoplight at River Road and N.C.I 79 when
he was knocked down by a vehicle attempting to enter
River Road. The accident is under investigation by the
N.C. Highway Patrol. (See related story in this issue.)
Traffic officer Opperman was "bruised and sore" but
fine after being checked at Ixiris (S.C.) Community
Hospital, "We've put him off servicc for several days.
We want to make sure he's fine."
The fire department barred traffic from the front half
of River Road ? the main street used to reach restaurants
on the waterfront, so Calabash and Sunset Beach fire
fighters could reach the fire with their trucks and hoses.
A suppertime traffic snarl ensued as Calabash VFD's
traffic officers tried to redirect drivers headed to the wa
terfront along an alternate route following Riverview
and Oak streets.
STArf PHOTO rr SUSAN U>r1t R
A HEAT EXPLOSION blew out a window and popped the roof as a Friday night fire gutted a
Calabash building housing a dental lab and jewelry shop. Ballast in a fluorescent light shorted out and
caught fire while the businesses were closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Ulrich Takes Burgaw Job
Twu Weeks after retiring as lic'dcs 5c?c!i s lc"n rr^r.sgcr, Gus
Ulrich was back at work Tuesday as part-time town manager in Burgaw.
Ulrich started working Tuesday and said he plans to work two or
three days a week for the next few months while Burgaw officials look
for a new town manager to replace Tim Batth.
"It's strictly a part-time situation, only until they can find another
manager," said Ulrich, who retired as Holden Beach manager on Nov.
Ulrich, who was town manager in Garner for 17 years before mov
ing to Holden Beach in 1989, said he was contacted about the Burgaw
job a couple weeks before his retirement.
Burgaw, in Pender County, is working on water and sewer service
extension projects and the renovation of a building for the police depart
"They have three or four construction projects going on. To a large
extent I'll be concentrating on those," Ulrich said.
Ulrich said he expects the part-time position to last into the spring. "I
don't anticipate it lasting past March or April, and it may not even be
Once he leaves Burgaw, Ulrich said he's not sure if he will accept
other interim positions.
"That was another reason I wanted to try this to see if this is some
thing I'm interested in doing elsewhere." he said.
Former BCC Instructor
Gets Cash, Statement
In Lawsuit Settlement
(Continued From Page 1-A)
leges is based on enrollment. Some
financial aid programs also require
documentation of regular atten
dance, as do some curriculum pro
Page's suit questioned the timing
of the non-renewal of her contract
and the reasons for it, saying she
was entitled to a grievance hearing
and seeking damages in excess of
The college's liability insurance
will pay all of the Page settlement
but a deductible of about $2,500.
While her last contract had ended
in May, she was not notified until
late August 1993, the day after grad
uation, that she would not be rehired
for the 1993-94 term.
A business instructor at the col
lege for six years. Page asserted in
her suit that she was not rehired be
cause of her activism and outspoken
criticism of the college's administra
After she dismissal she took her
concerns public, criticizing the
school's leadership as being more
interested in fund-raising and public
relations than in educating students.
Look For Average Temps, Rainfall
Expect seasonable temperatures
and precipitation over the next few
days, says Shallotte Point weather
watcher Jackson Canady.
Canady forecasts nightly lows in
the 40's and daytime temperatures in
the mid-60s with about half an inch
For the period Nov. 22-28, the
maximum high reading was 73 de
grees on the 28th, with a minimum
low of 28 degrees on the 24th.
Average temperatures were about
2 degrees above average for this
time of year.
Canady measured %> of an inch of
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ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTION RATES BY MAIL: Sr. Citizen
In Brunswick County 06.30 05.30
N.C. Sales Tax .38 .32
Postage Charge 3.68 3.68
TOTAL 10.36 9.30
Elsewhere in North Carolina Q6.30 Q5.30
N.C. Sales Tax .38 .32
Postage Charge 8.18 8.18
TOTAL 14.86 13.80
Outside North Carolina Q6.30 U5.30
Postage Charge 9 9
TOTAL 15.95 14.95
Complete And Return To Above Address
Shallotte Fire Damages Two Automotive Shops
(Continued From Page t-A)
the office," Gore said.
While a Volvo on one bay rack burned. Gore
said there was no problem cranking a second ve
hicle and driving it out. That was just one of sev
eral quirks noticed after the fire, he said. While
the interior of the parts room was gutted, a push
broom leaning against the other side of one of its
walls was not damaged.
In the bay area, anything plastic melted. Gore
said, and a lot of cleaning will be needed because
of heavy smoke damage. Until power is restored
he won't be able to determine whether the hy
draulic equipment is salvageable. "Some of it
may need to be rebuilt."
Gore praised firefighters' quick response and
handling of the fire. "I think they did an excellent
job," he said.
SBI arson investigator Matt White searched
iniougii iiic icuidim uf iiit fiic Hiuimuiji moiiiing
with Fire Marshal l^ogan. Fire Chief Carter and
Gore, and later interviewed people who had been
at the fire scene.
"We all looked at it, but we couldn't determine
how it started," said Ijogan. Wc could see it start
ed at the back comer near the electrical panel, but
there was nothing to indicate there was an electri
cal problem. That's not to say it wasn't."
There had also been problems with the fluores
cent lighting, with Gore changing out one tube re
cently, Logan said, but investigators didn't find
any trace of the light to check
Clcve Gore said he left the shop around 4 p m
Monday. Logan said Tapio closed around 4 40
p.m., shutting off the power before he left.
Less than two hours later a hunter coming out
of the woods at dusk reported smoke coming
from the building. Brunswick County Deputy
Sheriff Site ilk) II CaiMru anvj SmiIOuC Voiliu'ccr
Rescue Squad Chief Mark Gore arrived almost si
multaneously and began checking for signs of
Tire. There were no flames aiming from the
building, but they also saw wisps of smoke.
"Sheldon went around one side of the building
and I went around the other." said Mark Gore.
"The building was scorching hot If you touched
it, it would have burned your hands The glass in
the front door was starling to bow ~
When owner Clevc Gore arrived, his first in
stinct was to open the front door, he said, but fire
fighters stopped him, warning that a rush of fresh
air into the building could cause a hackdraft
Heat pressure was intensifying inside the well
insulated and tightly made metal building, said
Shallotte Fire Chief Tim Carter " l"he bay doors
had bowed out It was on its way."
No Fault Found In Death Of Woman On Highway
(Continued From Page 1-A)
despite his efforts, tie was travelling
at what Trooper Jones estimated was
50 miles per hour.
"He thought what he hit might
have been a woman, but was not
certain," Gore said. "He slowed the
vehicle, drove to the Belvillc exit
and promptly reported the accident
He contacted 911 and told the dis
patcher that he thought he might
have hit a woman.
"The dispatcher asked where he
was when he hit the object and, after
being given the location, told Mr
Gowan not to worry, 'he had hit a
deer,'" Gore said "Relieved, he
drove to Wilmington "
As it turns out, Gowan 's initial
suspicions were correct. An autopsy
report has not been completed, but
"due to the great number of times
Ms. Marsh was hit after that first
blow, we do not expect to be able to
tell if she died instantly from that
first impact," Gore said.
Charges will not be filed against
Gowan because he quickly made an
effort to report the accident and
there is no evidence to suggest that
he was violating any traffic laws that
led to Marsh's death. Gore said.
"You Hit A Deer"
Emergency Communications Dir
ector Douglas Ledgett on Tuesday
said he has listened to all the tapes
and reviewed all documents relating
to the incident and found "no viola
tion of guidelines" and plans "no
disciplinary procedures" against the
911 dispatcher who took Gowan 's
call and assured him that he did not
hit a person.
"I don't think what he did was
ul don 't think what ( the dispatcher) did
was wrong. But he may not have used the
best judgment. We'll have to work on that
? Doug Ledgett
wrong. But he may not have used
the best judgment." lxdgett said
"We'll have to work on that issue."
Ledgett said the mistaken identifi
cation occurred after an Emergency
Medical Services technician respond
ing to another call in that area report
ed seeing "a large carcass" on the op
posite lane of U.S. 17 at 6:07 a.m.
Bight minutes later, another caller
reported "a deer carcass" in the
same location, Ledgett said.
The call from (iowan came in
seven minutes later, at 6:21. The
truck driver said he thought he "hit a
lady" shortly after 6 o'clock. Wea
ther conditions in the area were
overcast with periods of rain and
light drizzle. I "he sun would not rise
until 6:50 that morning.
lxdgett estimated that more than
400 deer are reported hit by vehicles
on Brunswick County roads every
year, especially during hunting sea
At the 911 center that morning.
Ledgett said one dispatcher was out
sick, forcing others to double up on
the phones. Ambulances were re
sponding to two different calls at the
time Gowan's dialed 911.
The dispatcher evidently assumed
that the third report in 15 minutes of
something in Ihc roadway was the
same as two previous calls from that
"The caller reported that he
thought he hit a lady." Ledgctt said.
"I can't say that based on that infor
mation the dispatcher made a logical
assumption It's one of those situa
tions that you can't foresee But you
can learn from them. I can assure
that it won't happen again ."
l>edgett said he has been meeting
with 911 staff and reviewing depart
ment guidelines in an effort to pre
vent a recurrence He said the dis
patcher who took Gowan's call has
eight years experience in the posi
tion and has been employed by
Brunswick County for about a year
Meanwhile, Gore said it is unlike
ly that authorities will ever deter
mine how Man>h was struck that
A witness reported seeing
Marsh's brown Buick parked by the
side of Green Hill Road in
Winnabow about two miles from the
accident site. The woman said she
saw someone walking and asked if
she could help.
"The person said, 'No!' in a real
loud voice," Gore said.
Another witness who was driving
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by on U S 17 reported seeing some
one walk "right on across" the
southbound lane of the highway He
told investigators that the person
coounucil walkiug acioss the north
r*?NlKlanc As he looked in his rear
view mirror. the witness said he
"kepi seeing laillighls swerving t<>
avoid something." Ckwr said
The district attorney said very lit
tlv is known about Marsh She had
been living in an apartment on 23rd
Street in Wilmington and doing en
gineering work in the area She re
portedly has no immediate family
here. Her closest relatives live in
Pennsylvania Her car was regis
tered in Georgia
Detectivcs investigating the ease
have said she had been depressed
about recently being turned down
for a job Friends of Marsh have told
police that the last time they saw her
a day earlier she had been drinking
Gore said that because of the con
dition of her body, medical examin
ers are not likely to determine
whether or not she had been drink
ing before the accident.
(Continued From Page I -A)
with the murder of KO-year old Lena
Hales, who was severely beaten in
her home during an apparent rob
bery. She died the following day at
Duke University Medical Center.
Assistant District Attorney lee
Bollinger said after court adjourned
Tuesday that testimony in the
Cummings trial is not likely to begin
before the middle of next week.
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