The long awaited results of an official investigation by the Kentucky State Fire Marshal’s office into the cause of the tragic Silver Trail Distillery explosion and fire back in late April were released last week. The incident, which made national headlines, resulted in devastation to the distillery and the death of Kyle Rogers, one of those involved in distilling there. Jay Rogers, cousin to Kyle and now Silver Trail’s new master distiller, suffered critical injuries but has been recovering, at least physically.
I’ve embedded the entire final investigative report at the end of the story for your viewing. Here is the official statement from the Fire Marshal’s office on the cause:
The over-pressurization of a still that was neither designed to hold pressure nor equipped with a correct pressure relief valve likely led to the rupture and subsequent fire that killed one worker and seriously injured another at the Silver Trail Distillery at Hardin in Marshall County, Kentucky. The findings were released by the Kentucky State Fire Marshal’s office following a three-month investigation. The accident occurred April 24, 2015.
The report states: “All indications are that the event directly involved the over- pressurization of the still with subsequent failure which resulted in it being propelled out the north end of the structure.” The rupture is believed to have caused the contents of the still to reach high temperatures that resulted in burn injuries to the two employees. Kyle Rogers died May 11 from the burns he received. Jay Rogers survived but was also seriously burned.
According to publications cited in the report, pop-off valves and pressure gauges are utilized to reduce the potential for a “blow-out.” The valve installed on the Silver Trails still that failed was rated for 150 pounds per square inch (psi). “Being that the still was not designed or intended to be a pressure vessel, a pressure relief valve rated at 150 psi appears very excessive, the report said.” Further, the report states that an information sheet regarding this particular model still states that, “Each Revenoor Still is built with a safety valve and operated on less than one pound of pressure.” Deputy state fire marshal Bill Compton, who conducted the investigation, stated in the report, “This is in direct contradiction to the rating listed on the valve installed.”
A day later Silver Trail followed with this statement on the findings:
Basically it verifies that the tower failed due to an internal plate being only tack welded when it should have been welded fully around. This allowed a distilling bean or beans (glass marble) to clog the product (shine) output hole. This caused an immediate over pressurization which ruptured the still bottom and sent it hurtling through the door. The pressure relief valve did not open due to the still builder installing a valve too large for this size pot plus being made for a water heater.
After interviews with other craft distillers, this was typical of Revenoor’s blatant disregard for safety as owner Terry Wilhelm states in the report “I just put those on there to keep the the lawyers off me.” Silver Trail will be asking the state about the convening of a grand jury to decide if criminal charges will be pending. Revenoor has no product liability insurance and has taken a “not my problem attitude” in this horrible tragedy that could have been prevented with the correct $45.00 part or better yet if the still had been shipped to Silver Trail without a safety release valve and our service man could have easily figured out the correct size and type.
All agencies, federal, state and local have cleared Silver Trail to regain any licenses without prejudice meaning all licenses are good when we build back. Thank you everyone everywhere for your kind thoughts, words, deeds and most of all prayers. I promise you that Kyle and Jay will have justice.
Spencer Balentine – Founder Silver Trail Distillery
As the legal ramifications of this continue to play out, fundraising remains one of the primary means by which those in the distilling community can support the Rogers family. A concert, for example, is planned for early August in Kentucky.
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Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and...