The death toll has risen to three in the massive Wisconsin corn mill explosion. The Didion Milling Plant in Cambria blew up and killed three workers and severely injured 11 more, on Wednesday evening.
The powerful blast leveled almost the entire plant. The body of the third Wisconsin corn mill employee was not recovered until ruins from the explosion could be explored on Friday. Multiple fire department crews rushed to the Didion Milling Plant in the southern region of Wisconsin during the late evening hours on Wednesday. Cambria is located approximately 45 miles northeast of the city of Madison, CBS affiliate WISC-TV reports.
The bodies of mill operator Duelle Block and Robert Goodenow were recovered on Thursday. Both men died in the Wisconsin corn mill explosion and the following fire.
Derrick Clark, an executive at the Didion Milling Plant, said emergency crews recovered the remains of packing machine operator Pawel Tordoff from the explosion rubble, during a press conference held yesterday afternoon.
“The loss of these three team members is a very emotional incident for us and has really torn a hole in the heart of the Didion Milling team and the Cambria community,” Clark added.
The cause of the Wisconsin corn mill explosion is still being investigated, the Miami Herald reports.
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A fire began on Monday but according to Derrick Clark, it was not related to the explosion on Wednesday. Although the cause of the blaze is also still under investigation, Clark maintains the Didion Milling Plant has a good idea of what caused the fire and maintains it involved a “distinctly separate system.” He was not willing to release any specifics about the cause of the fire.
According to Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) records, the Wisconsin corn mill was cited six years ago for not taking appropriate precautions to prevent dust explosions. Such explosions can occur when dust particles in a confined place during grain handling are suspended in the air. A single spark could reportedly ignite the dust particles.
In 2016 there were five grain dust explosions in the United States. Two of the explosions caused fatalities. After the OSHA violations in 2011, the Didion Milling Plant was fined $3,465 and the case relating to the infraction was closed in the fall of 2013. MS Insurance, the company which insures the Wisconsin corn mill, considered the problem solved and the case closed. The company’s insurance risk assessment rating has improved since the violation. A representative for the insurer deemed, “ancient history.”
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The investigation into the fire and explosion at the Wisconsin corn mill is being undertaken jointly by OSHA, the state fire marshal’s office, and the United States Department of Justice. Didion Milling Plant is also conducting its own internal review into the two incidents.
Clark has so far refused to speculate on any possible cause for the explosion besides dust ignition. He said employees are not permitted to smoke inside the building.
“It’s just too early for us to comment on any potential sources. We’re confident the systems we have in place protect our workers,” Clark added.
The Wisconsin corn mill employs more than 200 workers at its various plants in the state. The majority of the staffers work at the Didion Milling Plant in Cambria. The plant is closed until further notice, but according to Clark, all employees will keep their jobs.
Some workers will be offered the opportunity to retrain so they can handle other tasks or be relocated to other facilities operated by the company. Operations at the company’s ethanol plant, which is located next to where the corn mill exploded, are expected to resume in the near future.
The corn milling business was launched by brothers John and Dow Didion in 1972. The Cambria corn mill was completed in 1991. Products made at the milling plant were used in making cereal, beer, snack chips, bathroom moldings, steel, and ethanol.
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