Didion Milling Plant: Three Dead In Wisconsin Corn Mill Explosion

Almost a dozen workers were taken to hospitals following the explosion and fire, which also leveled parts of the plant. Williams, the village president, said the plant is an economic anchor for the entire area.

A third employee who died when a Didion corn mill exploded in Cambria on Wednesday night was identified by company officials Friday afternoon. This Thursday, June 1, 2017, photo provided by Jeff Lange shows firefighters at the scene following an explosion and fire at the Didion Milling plant in Cambria, Wis.

The explosion occurred late Wednesday night at the Didion Milling Plant in Cambria, a rural village about 45 miles (72 kilometers) northeast of Madison.

Officials with Didion Milling say the body of the last victim of the May 31st explosion at the corn mill has been taken out of the rubble.

Crews are searching for a worker who remains unaccounted for following a fatal explosion at a southern Wisconsin corn mill.

Tordoff, an old pack operator, 27-year-old Duelle Block, a mill operator, and 52-year-old Robert Goodenow, a forklift operator were killed in the blast.

"A friend of ours has three brothers and they all work there at Didion at the same plant, and we just recently found out, that as we were coming here, that one of their brothers might be missing, or family members missing", Kay Wardlow of Beaver Dam said.

Clark said Monday fire at the facility was "totally unrelated" to the deadly explosion.

Sixteen employees were working at the mill at the time, and 11 had been taken to hospitals, Derrick Clark, Didion's vice president of operations, said Friday.

No cause has been released on what started the massive blast.

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.

Dust explosions can occur when high concentrations of dust particles are suspended in the air in a confined space during grain handling and a spark from something like a cigarette butt ignites it, according to the USDA's website. There were five grain dust explosions in the United States previous year and two of the incidents resulted in fatalities, Purdue University said in an annual report. Two of the explosions caused fatalities.

The federal safety agency ordered the mill to correct the problem by April 2011, and the records show Didion paid a $3,465 fine and the case was closed in September 2013.

Federal and state, as well as insurance, investigators are already on the scene or heading to Cambria seeking answers, according to Jim Brunker, a partner and senior account executive with M3 Insurance. The company's insurance risk assessment rating has improved since the violation. OSHA hasn't cited the plant for anything since, records show.

Clark said employees weren't allowed to smoke inside the building but he declined to speculate on other causes for the explosions besides dust ignition. "We're confidant the systems we have in place protect our workers". Other injured workers were taken to Portage hospital nearby, where one was admitted to the intensive care unit, and another airlifted to the University Hospital and also placed in the burn unit.

In the small town of Cambria, nearly everyone has a friend or loved one who works at the mill. A note posted on the company's website said the company would be closed until further notice.

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. Construction of the Cambria milling facility, for the manufacture of "value-added" products such as corn grits, cornmeal and corn flours, was completed in 1991.

  • Larry Hoffman