Chemical reaction blamed for deadly Guthrie explosion, officials say

Guthrie residents are coming together after the fatal incident.
WSMV's Michael Warrick reports.
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 8:19 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GUTHRIE, Ky. (WSMV) - An explosion that killed a man in Guthrie Wednesday is being blamed on a chemical reaction that blew a 500-pound tank through the wall of an industrial facility, the Todd County Emergency Management Agency said Thursday.

The explosion happened outside the Quick Turn Anodizing facility, killing a worker inside and injuring four others.

“It was deafening. It shook the building,” American Cafe owner Victoria Slack said. “It was just extremely loud. You knew that it was serious. You knew there would be people hurt.”

Todd County emergency managers say a vacuum truck waste hauler was removing a chemical solution called ‘lye’ from the Quick Turn facility when it began smoking or steaming.

A city employee who was eating lunch at American Cafe went to see if he could help when the tank’s end cap blew open. Both the driver and city employee were hurt.

The force of the explosion sent the large tank into the Quick Turn facility, where the fatality occurred.

Slack remembers two other restaurants patrons rushing to see how they could help the injured.

“At that point, it was an emergency. It all happened so quickly from the time they ran over to see if [the driver] needed help, to when the actually explosion happened,” Slack said.

Investigators believe the chemical solution inside the tank somehow got mixed with an organic fat, like cooking oil, that caused the water in the solution to boil. The pressure got so high the tank blew, emergency managers said. The tank contained about 300 gallons of the solution.

Slack, through her time at the American Cafe, had gotten to know many of the Quick Turn employees.

She was encouraged to see so many people in town race to their aid - whether they brought towels, water, or other help.

“I think it shows that when something like this happens, you do whatever you can and offer what you can, and you just work together, Slack said. “We want them to know that they have our support ... we’re always here, and that we’re Guthrie strong.”