Three people were killed and six others were injured when an explosion occurred on a tugboat in drydock at First Marine Dry Dock Boat and Barge Repair in Calvert City, Kentucky on January 19. A flash fire followed the explosion which occurred just after 9 a.m. while work was being performed on the boat.
Timothy L. Wright, 52 of Calvert City, Jerome A. Smith, 56 of Thibodaux, Louisiana and Quentin J. Steward, 41 of Opelousas, Louisiana were killed in the blast. James Lang, Billy Counts and Tyler Wedeking were taken to Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville. Javier Fuenes, Wilson Madried and Jimmy Lang were transported to area hospitals for treatment of explosion injuries.
Brandon Langston told WPSD Local 6 that his friend Timothy Wright will be missed by many people. Wright, he said, was always cheerful always ready to help anyone. “He was one of the greatest guys I knew.”
Wedeking, who is from Illinois, was working with his uncle Jimmy Lang and cousin James Lang on the top deck of the boat when the blast occurred. He told WPSD that there was a flash of bright, white light and then everything went dark. Although he suffered second and third-degree burns to his hands and face, he freed his uncle and cousin who were trapped beneath debris and pulled them to safety while the boat was still on fire. He and his girlfriend are expecting their first child in July. A GoFundMe page has been set up for him.
Wedeking was treated and released later that night from Vanderbilt where James Lang remains hospitalized with severe burns to his hands and face and a broken foot. Jimmy Lang, who suffered internal injuries and broken bones, is on a ventilator in stable condition at Deaconess Midtown Hospital in Evansville, Indiana, according to WPSD.
“The recovery process from burns and other explosion injuries can be lengthy,” said Fred Pritzker, an explosion attorney who represents clients who have been injured or suffered the wrongful death of a loved one in explosions.
The tugboat William E Strait is owned by Smithland Towing. First Marne owns that land where it was drydocked. At least 40 people, including workers from four companies: First Marine, Four Rivers Marine Coating, Hutco, and Thermal Control were at the site when the blast occurred.
Multiple agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) responded to the scene. Investigators have not yet determined what caused the blast. The investigation is ongoing.