Corbin, KY Insulation Factory Explosion, Feb 2003
"There will be several stages of recovery that will stretch over several months," said Dr. Brian Joseph, a plastic surgeon at UK.
Six victims remained in critical condition Thursday night at Vanderbilt, hospital spokesman Clinton Colmenares said.
There had been few violations at the plant, which had won a governor's safety award in 2001 after going three years and 4 million hours without a lost-time injury.
This month, the Kentucky Labor Cabinet proposed to cite CTA for a violation involving safety guards on machinery, said Eddie Jacobs, spokesman for the Kentucky Labor Cabinet. A routine conference on the proposed citation had been set for Thursday, but was postponed after the blast. The allegation arose from an employee complaint - the first ever received from a CTA employee, Jacobs said.
The company also was cited in 1989 and 1993 for serious violations - conditions that are not intentional
but could cause injury or death. Those cases also dealt mainly with insufficient safety guards on machinery, according to agency records.
The company settled the citations for $5,600 in all. State inspectors
in 1998 and 2000 turned up no violations.
The plant in Laurel County near the Knox County line makes acoustical and thermal insulation products for the industrial and automotive industries. Tomaw said sales from the plant average $80 million to $90 million per year.
Bob Terrell, director of the Corbin Office of Economic Development, said the plant 90 miles south of Lexington supplies materials for Ford vehicles for heat and sound control.
Tomaw said the plant is undergoing a $100 million upgrade and renovation, but didn't believe that played any roll in the explosion and fire.
A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Louisville said the federal agency was providing routine assistance to local authorities in investigating the explosion.
"At this point we're not aware of any criminal activity," said Laura Volk.
After Thursday's blast, authorities shut down a 13-mile stretch of nearby Interstate 75 for about an hour because of concerns that a large, black cloud of smoke coming from the plant contained hazardous chemicals.
Officials later said there was no danger to the public and reduced the area under an evacuation order. The fire continued to burn for hours, but had been mostly contained by early afternoon.
An employee and employees' relatives said small fires are relatively common at the plant, a contention that Tomaw acknowledged.
"It's endemic to the process - the material goes through a furnace," Tomaw said. "We may have one small fire a month or one small fire in six months."
Cindy Cravens, 24, had just gotten off work 30 minutes before the explosion. She said the plant has many fire extinguishers that employees use.
Tomaw said there was no indication whether such a fire was the trigger
to Thursday's blast.
Roger Bales, 33, of Corbin, was working on a piece of equipment near where the explosion occurred. He escaped without injury.
"It happened so fast. I looked up, and I saw a big ball of fire coming at me," Bales said.
The Enquirer 2003-02-21
List of the Casualties:
DAVID MESSER, 43, of Gray.
DAVID "JOE" HAMILTON, 37.
ARNOLD PETERS, 57.
JIMMY LEMMINGS, 42.
CLARENCE DAVIS, JR., 35.