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Rubbertown plant worker describes chaos, rescue after explosion

by WHAS11


Posted on March 23, 2011 at 10:40 PM

RUBBERTOWN, Ky. (WHAS11)-  A Carbide Industries worker who helped carry a critically injured colleague out of the burning plant tells WHAS11 that the danger was immediately apparent as soon as he saw smoke.

The furnace inside the Rubbertown calcium carbide facility exploded on Monday afternoon, killing two workers.

"I looked up. I saw dark smoke," recalled crane operator Osborne Bradley, "And that's when I called on the radio, 'Medical. We have a problem!' I shut the crane off, grabbed by hardhat and glasses and I took off running."
He knew the danger of the highly combustible material, but did not run for the exit.  Instead, Bradley ran to check on the welfare of his workers in the control room just 25 feet from the 3800 degree furnace.

"That's when I heard a boom," Bradley said, "I heard a boom and I continued to run, run because I knew... possibility it wasn't good."

Three other workers who are trained EMT's were also running toward the control room.

"Chaotic.  Smoke, flames were firing in the background. Dust everywhere, tin from the roof," Bradley described, "The smoke was coming off the top of the furnace, flames in the background, sheets of tin on the floor."

Worker Steve Nichols was carried out first.  Then, through the smoke and dust, Bradley spotted Jorge "Louie" Medina on one elbow on the floor of the control room.

Not sure if any other explosions were coming, Bradley focused on getting Medina out of the plant.

"I said, your legs, your legs, does your leg hurt?  He nodded with his head, he said, no.  And I said, well, how's your knees?  And he nodded with his head, again, he was okay.  He couldn't talk at this point but he gave me some head signals that everything was okay."

Bradley said he and worker Brian Bowling put Medina's arms around their necks, got him of the plant and to treatment by paramedics.

"Heroic," said plant manager John Gant when asked to describe the actions of workers to run into the fire to help their fellow workers, "Got to do what you can do, try to get them out."

"(Medina) was a fellow worker," Bradley said, "Fellow worker that was my main concern."