Saturday, February 17, 2018
Public safety

Father and stepson both severely injured in Tampa Electric Co. accident

TAMPA — Frank Lee Jones, 55, only worked with his son for a month before he made Frankie Atkins get a new job.

The work at Gaffin Industrial Services was too dangerous, Atkins said his father told him.

So after working at a few plants in Lake City and Clewiston, Atkins left the job and his father carried on. But Atkins' concern never eased.

"I always worried my Daddy was going to get hurt," Atkins told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday.

That's what made the news of Thursday's industrial accident at the Tampa Electric Company's Big Bend power plant even harder to bear.

Atkins' father was one of four men severely burned by molten material that gushed from a blocked tank the crew was trying to unplug. Two other workers were killed.

RELATED: In an instant, molten slag gushed over workers at Tampa Electric power plant

"His body is covered in burns," Atkins said. "It's really, really bad."

But the bad news didn't stop there: Atkins' stepbrother Gary Marine Jr., 32, was working on the same crew and is hospitalized with Jones at Tampa General Hospital. Both are fighting for their lives.

While Jones started working at Gaffin when Atkins, 31, was a young boy, Atkins said his stepbrother only started a few months ago.

Atkins said the type of work his dad and stepbrother did always made him anxious. They were surrounded by chemicals and other volatile substances on a regular basis, he said. Experts said the slag that burned Jones and Marine reaches temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees.

"Anything can happen when you're working with chemicals like that," Atkins said. "Just like yesterday."

Jones is a family man, doing whatever he can to support his kids, Atkins said. He helped get Marine, who goes by "JR," the job at Gaffin, Atkins said.

Antonio Navarrete, 21, and Armando J. Perez, 56, are the other workers hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.

Christopher Irvin, 40, of Tampa and Michael McCort, 60, of Riverview were killed.

Contact Caitlin Johnston at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.

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