Federal investigators set to visit site of deadly explosion

By Jon Chrisos - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigators are expected at Carbide Industries Wednesday afternoon. The visit follows a deadly explosion and fire Monday night that killed two employees.

In a news release, CSB board member Mark Griffon said, "CSB investigations look at a wide range of issues. Previous CSB investigations have included assessing a plant's facility siting practices and examining the location of occupied buildings such as control rooms."

The fire continued to smolder Tuesday night. After getting a close look inside late Tuesday afternoon, crews decided to just let it burn. But they planned to stay at the scene to keep an eye on things.

"We're used to responding to hazmats. We're used to the slow nature and not just rushing in ... You have to stay back on a hazmat. They are dynamic and change so much," Lake Dreamland Assistant Chief Jody Meiman said.

Steve Nichols and Jorge "Louis" Medina lost their lives after the explosion. They were two of 17 second shift employees at the plant. They were in the furnace room, just feet from the site of the explosion.

Crews determined mineral oil was still on fire as of Tuesday night. As smoke continued to pour out of the building, the whole plant was shut down.

The Environmental Protection Agency is also testing the air around the building and continues to assure plant neighbors, despite the smell, they have nothing to worry about.

"Calcium carbide should combust into carbon monoxide and water when released. Aside from that, there are no residual effects to the environment from this fire," Art Smith with the U.S. EPA said.

The focus now is on the families of the victims and the 130 people who work here.

"We haven't seen a lot of them because we've been down. There's a letter going out to all of them telling them more information is coming. We've set up counseling on a voluntary basis starting tomorrow," Carbide General Manager John Gant said.

OSHA and the Kentucky Fire Marshal's Office are investigating, but so far there's no word on what caused the explosion and the fire.

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