Corn Mill Blast Leaves At Least Three Men Dead
An explosion which occurred at the Didion Milling Plant, a corn mill operating since 1991 just outside of Madison, Wisconsin, has left at least three men dead. A third body was just found in the debris, but due to safety issues, authorities have not yet been able to recover and identify the deceased. In total, sixteen people working that day were injured in the accident, and eleven were sent to various hospitals in the area. As of Friday afternoon, five explosion victims were still at the hospital. Four were in the burn unit and a fifth survivor was in the hospital’s trauma center. Another has been released. No further information on the victims is available to date.
The company’s corn products are used in brewing beer as well as in making chips, breakfast cereals, steel, ethanol and other products. It employs more than 200 people at numerous locations. The exact cause of the mill explosion is still being investigated, but company officials have insisted that safety violations for which the corn mill was cited were fixed years ago and any issues related to the incident were not associated with previous citations.
The body of packing machine operator Pawel Tordoff was also discovered in the ruins, along with forklift driver Robert Goodenow and mill operator Duelle Block. “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,” Didion Milling Plant executive Derrick Clark said. He also indicated a fire broke out on Monday, but it was not related to the explosion, although they are still trying to figure out what caused the fire. Clark insisted it involved “a distinctly separate system” and could not be tied to the blast.
In 2011, the Didion plant was cited for not meeting safety requirements specifically for preventing dust explosions by the U. S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Keeping the mill clean and ensuring its equipment is in good working condition is key to preventing these deadly explosions. Smoking is strictly prohibited inside the plant along with various other potential hazards.
Records show Didion paid a $3,465 fine and the case was closed in September 2013. It is unclear whether the needed improvements to prevent explosions were implemented. However, Clark, along with James Brunker, a senior executive with M3 Insurance, has assured authorities the problem was corrected. Brunker added that the Didion plant was improving since the violation from an insurance standpoint. “It’s just too early for us to comment on any potential sources,” Clark said. “We’re confident in the systems we have in place protect our workers.” The company has been closed until further notice, but Clark said all the plant workers will keep their jobs once the location reopens despite the loss of the three men.
Goodenow’s niece, 33-year-old Sarah Goodenow, who was close with her deceased uncle said, “He was a hard worker. He spent a lot of time joking and with the kids.” She had a panic attack when she learned of the tragedy. Sarah and other family members of the men lost are still looking for answers.