Three people were killed and one injured Tuesday in what apparently was an explosion and resulting fire at Jimbo’s Auto Repair in Hillsboro.
Through a variety of sources the deceased have been identified as David Beaver, Tim Furbee and 19-year-old Cameron Boatman, who were all employees at the auto shop. A fourth person who was injured in the explosion was the mother of James “Jimbo” Chambers, the business owner. He had left the shop just prior to the explosion and returned afterward. His mother, who worked in the office at the shop, remained hospitalized Wednesday in stable condition.
Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District Chief Dave Manning said his department received a call reporting the incident at 4:02 p.m. Tuesday. He said that upon arrival at the scene there was debris everywhere and the auto repair shop at 502 S. High St. was heavily involved in fire and smoke, which had extended to a vacant building immediately to the east.
“From what I felt at the firehouse and from what I’ve seen, I think that says a whole lot,” Manning said about an explosion being the cause of the fire.
Several people at nearby businesses said an explosion heavily shook their buildings.
Manning said all three of the deceased and the injured person, who was transported to Highland District Hospital in Hillsboro in stable condition, were inside the building.
In addition, he said a female firefighter slipped on the ice at the scene and was treated and released at Highland District Hospital.
A large number of vehicles on the lot were damaged or destroyed.
Manning said it was probably around 11 p.m. before the local firefighters had cleared and scene and cleaned everything up. Firefighters were called back at 12:20 a.m. Wednesday after the fire rekindled, and again after daybreak Wednesday with the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
“There was some debris and smoldering that we couldn’t get to because we didn’t want to mess up the scene for the fire marshal’s office,” Manning said.
He said it would be up to the fire marshal’s office to determine what caused the explosion.
Larry’s Party Shop, located immediately to the east of the vacant building that was damaged, will be closed for an undetermined time due to smoke and water damage from firefighters battling the fire in the attic of the neighboring building.
The Highland County North Joint Fire and Ambulance District in Leesburg, Southern Highland Volunteer Fire Department in Mowrystown and Clinton Joint Fire District in New Vienna provided mutual aid at the scene. Manning said fire departments in New Vienna, Fayetteville, Sardinia and Bainbridge provided coverage assistance for Paint Creek while it battled the fire.
Manning said the Hillsboro Police Department, Highland County Sheriff’s Office and city of Hillsboro, including mayor Justin Harsha and street superintendent Shawn Adkins, in addition to others, helped at the scene.
“Those guys were phenomenal, as well as all the community support we received,” Manning said. “It’s been overwhelming. It’s nice to know we’re part of the great community we have.”
Highland County Board of Commissioners President Terry Britton spoke about the incident at Wednesday morning’s commissioners meeting.
“With the tragedy that’s happened in our city here last night, we just want to send out our thoughts and prayers to all the families that were involved,” he said.
Highland County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brandon Stratton was also at the meeting.
“Prayers to the families and lives that was lost last night and all the people that was involved, and I assume they’ll be getting the state routes opened up shortly today,” he said.
South High Street/U.S. Route 62, which passes in front of the building where the explosion took place, reopened around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The Recovery Council, formerly FRS, is offering free services to anyone impacted from the explosion. It is located at 104 Erin Court, Hillsboro, and the phone number is 937-393-9720. Normal hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, but after hours help may be available if a counselor is available.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.