Saturday, May 23, 2015
Owner and Injured Distiller Sue Still Maker Over Deadly Silver Trail Explosion
WPSD-TV, the NBC affiliate in Paducah, Kentucky, is reporting today that Silver Trail Distillery owner Spencer Balentine and Jay Rogers, one of the employees injured in the distillery accident on April 24, are jointly suing Oregon still maker Revenoor for damages.
The family of Kyle Rogers, 27, who died from injuries he received in the explosion, has not yet decided how they want to proceed.
On Thursday, Amanda Powell, Silver Trail Museum Manager, issued a public statement to other owners of Revenoor stills. "DO NOT operate until you have spoken with the Kentucky State Fire Marshal's office in Frankfort," she warned. "The model 300 gallon Revenoor used by Silver Trail failed massively, hurtling 50 feet and bending a 10' X 10' sliding steel door before landing in the gravel lot." Jay Rogers said the explosion was totally without warning and occurred four gallons into a normal run.
In her statement, Powell also made allegations about the Revenoor Company and its owner, Terry Wilhelm of Yamhill, Oregon. "The very day of the accident Mr. Wilhelm began placing Revenoor Stills into bankruptcy and pulled the website down according to the insurance investigation," she claimed.
In an interview with Mark Gillespie on Friday, Wilhelm denied Powell's assertions. “I started to pull the website and the phone number down on February 24th, not the day after the explosion," Wilhelm told Gillespie. "There hasn’t been anything done about a bankruptcy filing. I simply did it because there were some health and some personal family issues that were just getting to be too much along with the work with Revenoor. I simply wasn’t in a good mind to take any more orders."
An archived copy of the Revenoor web site can be seen here.
According to Gillespie, Wilhelm shut the business down because of a family dispute over ownership. Wilhelm told Gillespie that he has been locked out of the Revenoor shop on the family’s farm since February 23 with no access to the company’s equipment or records. Wilhelm also said that he has not been contacted by anyone associated with the Kentucky Fire Marshal and is willing to cooperate fully in the investigation.
A few days after the blast, Hawkins Teague reported in the Murray (Kentucky) Ledger & Times that Bill Compton, a deputy with the Office of the State Fire Marshal’s hazardous materials division, is overseeing the investigation. His office is working with Silver Trail’s insurance company to develop a theory of what exactly caused the equipment failure.
“It’s an ongoing investigation,” Compton said. “There was a catastrophic failure of the still, which caused the still to be catapulted through the building and into the gravel driveway of the facility. What exactly caused the still to over-pressurize and fail, at this point, we don’t know; it’s still under investigation.”
A final report is not expected for some time, Compton told Teague.
There have been a handful of accidents at American micro-distilleries in the last ten years, but no deaths or serious injuries until Silver Trail. The Kentucky Distiller's Association has established a support fund for Jay Rogers and the family of Kyle Rogers called 'Lifting Spirits.'