Rubbertown Chemical Plant Explosion Causes Fire, Death and Injuries

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Louisville, Kentucky explosion and fire Monday afternoon at Rubbertown’s chemical plant, Carbide Industries. Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) warns residents within one mile radius to stay indoors and to close the doors and windows to their homes. According to reports, one employee (resident of southern Indiana) was killed and three other workers were injured due to the Carbide chemical site fire.

Residents are angry for the plant’s failure to warn neighbors earlier as to the chemical plant leak explosion and fire. According to Louisville city’s emergency management director, Doug Hamilton, the warning that most people in the neighborhood rely on in case of such a catastrophe turned out to be unnecessary – although he admitted a warning would not have been a bad idea ultimately. Allegedly, no danger was detected based on an air test that was conducted around the chemical plant where the disaster occurred. At the scene of the incident, Hamilton stated: “There is no risk to the community right now, and hasn’t been,” and added that the warning should have been lifted sooner.

The fire was reported at 5:40 p.m. at the Carbide chemical plant, located at 4400 Bells Lane, Louisville, KY, and involved calcium carbide, which Hamilton said poses an inhalation hazard if someone comes in close contact with it. Further, Hamilton reported that water cannot be used
on calcium-carbide fires because it produces acetylene gas. Several nearby residents who depend on telephone alerts to find out when such a chemical plant leak occurs expressed frustration and anger because the system had no report on the Carbide Industries fire until close to two hours after it actually began. “I am so furious right now,” said Terri Humphrey, a resident of Riverside Gardens, which is a neighborhood located south of the plant at issue just beyond the one-mile warning zone.

Capt. Sal Melendez, spokesperson for Louisville Fire & Rescue, disclosed that four people, two of whom had life-threatening injuries, were removed from the scene by emergency vehicle and taken to Louisville’s University Hospital. Sam Weakley, the Deputy Jefferson County Coroner, later reported that one of the employees who was taken to the hospital died due to injuries and identified the victim as 59 year old Steven Nichols of Charlestown, Indiana.

According to Carbide Industries’ General Manager, John Gant, of the three surviving workers, two were Carbide Industries chemical plant employees and one was an employee of a neighboring plant. Gant also stated that at the time of the explosion there were 17 Carbide employees in the plant. When the plant explosion occurred, the fire blew out one side of the furnace that occupies two floors of the five-story building. According to information provided by Gant, heat from the plant’s fire can reach as extremely high as 3,800-degrees Fahrenheit. Gant explained that when the building exploded, “it threw a lot of this very hot material out over a long, broad area.”

Gant disclosed to investigators that the plant’s management does not know what went wrong. Shortly after the fire was reported, the area was declared a hazardous material Level 2 incident by the Lake Dreamland Fire Department, which was in charge of the scene. It was then that the Louisville Police or LMPD asked the National Weather Service to send out an alert through the emergency broadcast system, which sent a warning to residents and alerted them to go
inside. MetroSafe’s released warning, a Level 2 hazmat incident, is the release of a product of which the public will be immediately aware, such as through an odor, nausea, nose or throat irritation, for which the best course of action is to remain indoors. They are referred to at times as a “burp” or “slug” and allegedly will dissipate in a brief period.

The warning covered people living in the area around the plant and points within one mile east and northeast of the source or incident. Residents were advised to immediately seek shelter indoors and to close all windows and doors in order to block out all outside air. Residents were also instructed to turn off air conditioners and to bring pets indoors.

As a result of the fire and explosion, numerous streets around the plant were shut down or closed, and police blocked off access to the Interstate 264 (I-264) exit at Bells Lane. Also blocked was the 40th Street ramp at Algonquin Parkway in Louisville, Kentucky.

Gray and White Law have been protecting the rights of Kentucky’s citizens and their families for suffering injuries and damages due to the wrongdoing of others. For years, our law firm has successfully litigated claims and won lawsuits against large corporations that operate chemical plants in Rubbertown due to their environmental pollution and the resulting harm caused to  neighbors and neighborhood properties located nearby to their industrial sites. The chemical plants pose many dangers and risks, including air pollution, plant explosions, chemical fires, toxic fallout, and chemical smells and/or nuisance odors.

If you, or someone you love, was hurt due to an incident at a chemical plant, then you should contact the experienced and knowledgeable lawyers at Gray and White Law immediately. Our attorneys who specialize in pollution litigation are ready to learn about your case and to answer questions you may have. Simply contact us at any time by toll free call at 1-888-450-4456 or via confidential e-mail.