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Friday, February 5, 2010 - 11:18am

Private Services on Blast Anniversary

This year's anniversary of the deadly 2008 explosion at Savannah's Imperial Sugar refiner will be marked by private ceremonies.

About 400 people last year attended a public anniversary in which Imperial Sugar dedicated a memorial park to the 14 workers who died in one of Georgia's worst industrial disasters.

This year, plant manager Thomas Rathke says, the company had a private breakfast memorial with employees and their families.

"It is a private affair this year," Rathke says. "Our employees will commemorate in many different ways."

A few churches are planning private events.

Company officials are using the anniversary to highlight how far the plant has come since the night of February 7th, 2008.

[RATHKE] "It's absolutely amazing what has occured over the last two years."

Although the plant was rebuilt and returned to full capacity last year, Imperial Sugar is still dogged by dozens of lawsuits filed on behalf of killed or injured workers.

Federal officials say, lax safety measures contributed to the blast.

The first lawsuits are set to be heard this spring.

The company is still fighting federal workplace safety fines.