An explosion last month at Carbide Industries LLC, the largest domestic producer of calcium carbide, killed two long-time employees and put a stop to production for the foreseeable future.

According to a Carbide Industries press release, the March 21 explosion at the company’s manufacturing plant in Louisville, Kentucky killed Steven Nichols, 59, of Charlestown, Indiana, and Jorge “Louie” Medina, 56, of Louisville. Both men worked in the furnace department. Two other workers were injured and treated at a local hospital.

Although the company said the status of the furnace has yet to be fully determined, the incident severely damaged the largest calcium carbide furnace in the Americas. Carbide Industries said that conditions within the furnace building resulted in fires that continued to burn for several days after the explosion.

An investigation by local, state, and federal inspectors is underway.

The company predicted that calcium carbide production would not resume for an extended period of time, but said it would keep all hourly and salaried employees on the payroll until further notice. In addition, it was pursuing foreign sources of calcium carbide to minimize the disruption to customers while the furnace is being rebuilt.

According to John Gant, General Manager, "We are sensitive to the needs of our workforce and their families, and our customer's needs as well, and find that the best short-term action we can take is to assist our customers with sourcing carbide, extending the existing supply, and finding alternative materials. Long term, the advantages of calcium carbide that our business is built upon have not changed. It is up to Carbide Industries to now further demonstrate that we are committed to those that have relied upon us by an expeditious return to the market.”