Hurt distillers in explosion expected to be in surgery

Two men injured in a distillery explosion at Silver Trail Distillery in Marshall County Friday are expected to both be in surgery Monday. The blast injured 40-year-old Jay Rogers and 26-year-old Kyle Rogers. They suffered severe burns and were flown to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville last week.

Kentucky Distillery Association President Eric Gregory said the two sustained severe burns, but he’s hopeful.

“The first 48 hours are generally the most crucial time for a burn victim. They passed that, and the doctors seem like they’re optimistic that things are headed in the right direction,” Gregory said.

Deputy State Fire Marshal Bill Compton said preliminary investigations show a catastrophic equipment failure created the explosion. Investigators are still working to find out how that failure happened.

Local 6’s Juliana Valencia met with another area distillery Monday to find out what precautions they take in keeping their stills running safe.

Master Distiller Billy Bivens at Paducah Distilled Spirits said safety is a major factor for anyone making moonshine.

He said a small flashlight is your best friend, and you have to continually use it to check for any vapor leaks. He said a leak can cause an explosion if it’s near any open flame.

Even though the stills are electrically heated and up to code, he says accidents can happen at any time.

“It’s a piece of equipment. It’s subject to failure — anything is — but I believe they’re safe. Safe for the residents of the city of Paducah,” Bivens said.

He said they always keep fire extinguishers handy, keep spills mopped up, and do the best to can use common sense.

Paducah Distilled Spirits’ stills use electricity instead of an open flame to run, but they’re still in a well ventilated area with sprinklers surrounding them.

“We have explosion-proof lighting in here, and we have explosion-proof electrical boxes,” Bivens said.

He said even though Paducah Distilled Spirits’ equipment is well-maintained and up to code, nothing is 100 percent safe. He said it hurts him that an equipment failure put two fellow-distillers at Silver Trail Distillery in pain.

“I really hate that happened because we are all friends. I hate that anyone got hurt,” Bivens said. “And you do the best you can.” 

Bivens said Paducah Distilled Spirits has reached out to Silver Trail to help with any production or anything they may need.

CFSB Banks is taking donations to help with Kyle and Jay Rogers’ medical expenses. Taco John’s in Murray will also donate 20 percent of its sales Tuesday to help with medical expenses.

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