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February 1, 2007 Issue

Father plunges into well to save son
Arson charged in Louisville Villas fire

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Father plunges into well to save son

• Both fell 30 to 40 feet before striking water in an abandoned well in Gibson

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

With dirt stains on his face 7-year-old Cameron Tompkins cried as medical staff placed the IV in his arm, but then came the comforting voice of his father from the stretcher beside him.

“It's Ok. It's going to be all right,” James Tompkins said knowing they were through the worst, knowing he had done what any father should do.

Monday, Jan. 29, around 2:28 p.m. a call went out to first responders in Glascock County of a boy and his father trapped in a well on Main Street in Gibson directly across from the Courthouse.

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The incident report states that Cameron was walking on an old, rotten piece of plywood placed on top of a defunct well, when it broke and he fell 30 to 40 feet to the bottom of the well.

“Another child that was outside saw the incident and yelled for help,” Deputy Jeremy Kelley said. “The father and mother, Tracy Tompkins, came outside and the mother called 911 and the father jumped in to save his son.”

As soon as the 911 call went out, help was arriving on the scene.

“When we received the call, myself, Deputy Kelley and DNR Ranger Brian Adams went to the call,” Glascock County Sheriff Dean Couch said. “When we arrived, we found the adult and the child in the well.”

Cameron and his father, James Tompkins, 34, were in a dark, brick lined well. There was water at the bottom of it that reached at least up to the father’s chest, but was reported to be deeper.

Ice crystals formed on the interior brick walls of the well, starting at the top and descending into the darkness.

The Tompkins are residents of Blythe. The house where the well is located belongs to James’s mother.

As Sheriff Couch, Deputy Kelley and Ranger Adams looked down they could see James pushing his body into the brick wall of the well as hard as he could to support himself and his son Cameron.

“The adult was posed with his feet on one side of the well and his back on the other side and holding his child between his legs to keep him out of the water,” Sheriff Couch said. “The father was in the water at the time.”

Sheriff Couch then left the scene to go to Usry’s Mobile Home Supply to retrieve some rope to hopefully pull the father and son to safety.

“While I was gone, Deputy Kelley and Ranger Adams took a piece of garden hose and tied a loop in it and threw it down to them so they could secure themselves and be stable,” Sheriff Couch said.

When Couch got back to the scene, he immediately tied a loop in the rope lowering it down to the father and child. James placed the rope under the child’s arms, while officers and other rescuers lifted him to safety from the frigid water at the bottom of the well.

“We let the rope back down and pulled the father out,” Sheriff Couch said. “While pulling the father out, they took the child and put him in the back of my patrol car and wrapped him in blankets and took his wet clothes off, while they were still waiting on the ambulance to get there.”

James and Cameron were both stabilized and taken to the Medical College of Georgia, but not before Cameron gave Deputy Kelley a thumbs up to let him know that he and his daddy would be OK. They were checked by hospital staff and released later that night. Rescuers said that they suffered no more than a few bruises and scratches from the fall.

“I do want to thank everybody, fire personnel, first responders and even the neighbors and people who showed up to help,” Sheriff Couch said. “This is a very, very rewarding end to this unfortunate accident. It turned out real well this time and it could have been worse. I was proud of everybody that helped. I am glad things turned out like they did.”

Sheriff Couch said plans are already being made to canvas Glascock County to make sure there are no other open wells children can get into.

“It is very dangerous with open wells where there is nobody around to supervise,” Sheriff Couch said.



Arson charged in Louisville Villas fire

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office made an arrest over the weekend in the fire that caused an estimated $250,000 to $300,000 in damage at an apartment complex in Louisville and could have cost several residents their lives.

The fire at Louisville Villas early Tuesday, Jan. 23 was the first in a string of three apparently unrelated arsons within the county in a week’s time.

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Arthur Lee Brown III, 29, of Wrens Quarters, allegedly set the fire to Building C at Louisville Villas shortly before 2 a.m. The fire sent three residents to the emergency room, two suffering smoke inhalation and one with a puncture wound to the foot from stepping on a nail, Assistant Fire Chief Chester Johnson said.

State Fire Marshall Alan Logue said Monday that Brown was arrested over the weekend after a tip from a Louisville Villa resident and an intensive interrogation of the suspect where he confessed to starting the fire.

“Everybody that came out of the rooms on the top floor specified that the storage areas were where the fire was coming from,” Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Clark Hiebert said Monday. “There was one resident in a room right next to it and others that had to walk towards the storage units to get downstairs.”

Much of the damage to an apartment in the front of the building was caused when the resident left the door open, Hiebert said. He said after investigating the inside of the storage closets, there was no electrical wiring.

When help arrived, Logue said that Sgt. Chip Evans, Deputy Tim Moore, Officer Matt Sudoon and John Mannen checked to see if residents were still inside and helped some of those on the bottom floor out of windows because the hallway was fully engulfed in flames.

“Some of the people were asleep,” Logue said. “This could have led to fatalities. At the time we were notified, five people were trapped.”

Logue said that Brown, a lover spurned, confessed he used available combustibles to intentionally start the fire. At the time of investigation, after looking at the burn patterns, Logue looked for the accelerants, but they were not possible to find because of the intensity of the fire.

Brown has been charged with first degree arson, which if convicted could lock Brown behind bars for up to 20 years.

Hiebert said that vengeance motivated Brown to start the fire.

“He had a confrontation with two female subjects,” Hiebert said. “One lived upstairs and one lived downstairs, he had been dating both. Allegedly one had company that night and she would not let him in. He told her, ‘You’re gonna’ be sorry.’”

Hiebert said he alerted Logue after he received a tip early that morning said the name of the suspect and the informant said they knew it was started by Brown.

Logue works 11 counties as a fire marshal, but has already worked three cases this week in Jefferson County. Through Logue’s investigations, he is able to determine if and how a fire was set.

Another fire that Logue is investigating, is one that was set in a 1997 white doublewide in Bargeron Trailer Park on Brannen Drive in Louisville.

Logue said that the trailer was put in the park in October of last year, but some people recently moved out.

“There was no electrical service, so the fire was intentionally set,” Logue said. “There is only fire damage in the living room and some water and smoke damage.”

A call was made reporting the fire at 12:12 a.m. Saturday. Logue said he estimated that around $10,000 in damage was caused to the structure.

The second fire was set on Tarver Durden Church Road in Bartow, Saturday, Jan. 27.

“In that area the fire was intentionally set Saturday evening around 9:30 p.m.,” Logue said. “It burned a good bit of grass and the edge of a porch on an old wooden house.”

Logue said it also burned a bit of the remnants of a mobile home that had already suffered from fire damage around two years ago.

Any information on these or any arsons in Georgia can lead to a reward of up to $10,000. Logue urged anyone who had any information to contact the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office or the Georgia Arson Control Hotline at 1-800-282-5804.

Hiebert said he was pleased with the job the Louisville Fire Department did in both cases.

“The fire department did a good job,” Hiebert said. “It is impressive when you see a major fire contained to do no more damage than what it did. They contained the fire in the doublewide to one room and the bottom rooms at the Villas building are still salvageable.”

But Hiebert is not the only one singing the Fire Department and the community’s praises. Ogeechee Behavioral Health Services Center Director Donna Miller joined in.




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