Three Killed in Blast at Kentucky Boatyard


By The Maritime Executive 01-19-2018 08:53:00

On Friday, an explosion on a towboat on the Tennessee River killed three individuals and seriously injured several others. 

The vessel was docked at a facility outside of Calvert City, Kentucky for repairs. On Friday morning, a blast occurred in her interior, leading to a flash fire. Local police received an emergency call reporting the explosion at 0917 and dispatched multiple agencies to respond. In all, fifteen different state, local and private organizations came to the scene to provide assistance.

The Kentucky State Police have released the names of those affected. The injured include Javier Fuenes, Wilson Madrid, Billy Counts, James Lang and Tyler Wedington. Lang, Counts and Wedington were seriously injured; they were taken to a hospital in Nashville and are in stable condition. 

The deceased include Timothy L. Wright, 52, of Calvert City; Jerome A. Smith, 56, of Thibodaux, Louisiana; Quentin J. Stewart, 41, of Opelousas, Louisiana.

In a statement, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul expressed his condolences for the families of the deceased. "[My wife] and I are saddened to hear about the tragic explosion in Calvert City, Kentucky this morning. Our thoughts, support, and prayers are with the victims and families of those who were lost," he wrote in a brief message Friday evening. 

The U.S. Coast Guard and OSHA are on scene and are participating in the investigation. The cause of the accident is not yet known, but the state police said that there is no indication of foul play. 

The police confirmed that the site of the blast is a yard owned by Calvert-based First Marine, and said that 41 yard employees and contractors were on scene at the time of the incident. Local media identified the vessel involved as the William E. Strait, a 200-foot, twin screw towboat built in 1955. It would be the Strait's second major casualty in three years: she sank after a collision near Memphis in December 2015 and was later salvaged. 

[Top image: the William E Strait (file image courtesy NTSB)]