Sheriff: Explosion at Wisconsin plant kills at least 1

Authorities say a third body has been recovered from the debris of an exploded corn mill in southern Wisconsin.

Columbia County Sheriff Dennis Richards confirmed the second death at a news conference Thursday evening.

The cause of the explosion is still unclear.

Dust explosions can occur when high concentrations of dust particles are suspended in the air in a confined space during grain handling.

Clark says a fire at the plant on Monday was completely unrelated to the explosion, but is also under investigation.

They don't know if there's a connection between that fire and the explosion. The first victim was found a short time after Wednesday's explosion. Didion said it was too early to determine a cause for the explosion. Village officials said later Thursday afternoon 17 employees were inside.

They aren't expected to report back to work for another week and a half.

The addition of the adjacent Didion Ethanol operation, which opened in April 2008, was controversial from the time it was proposed, about two years earlier. A benefit fund has been established.

Something to look forward to is graduation, which is set for Friday night. He says the district made a decision to shut down Thursday as a precaution in case the fire wasn't completely extinguished.

Sheriff Richards initially said 16 people were in the plant.

Columbia County Sheriff Dennis Richards said the search is going slowly because the structure of the building is unsafe.

In addition to the two fatalities, two other plant employees were treated and released. Twelve were transported to hospitals via ambulances and medical flights.

Despite Didion's history of environmental violations, the state helped the company win $5.6 million in stimulus funding to expand its milling and ethanol facilities, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism has reported. "Site still being secured", explained Derrick Clark, vice president of operations, Didion Mill.

Clark said federal and local authorities are investigating. The plant's filters lacked an explosion protective system, according to OSHA records.

Records show Didion paid a $3,465 fine and the case was closed in September 2013. OSHA hasn't cited the plant for anything since, the records show.

Didion officials didn't immediately return messages from The Associated Press on Thursday. OSHA investigators are investigating the latest fire. It left at least two people dead. 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. The small community is about 45 miles northeast of Madison. She said she had an anxiety attack when she heard he was killed. Some of the people who were hurt remained in burn centers and intensive care units Thursday. She declined to release further details.

Recovery crews have been sifting through a mountain of debris. That quiet shattered with the explosion at Didion around 11 p.m. Wednesday. Today, this facility stands as Didion's main soybean-processing location.

There was no immediate word on the severity of the injuries or what may have caused the blast.

Crews are searching for a worker who remains unaccounted for following a fatal explosion at a southern Wisconsin corn mill. Schools in the Cambria-Friesland district also closed Thursday because of the incident. Employees seemed to like Didion, she said, though for many the work could be tough, with a lot of heavy lifting. 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. Along with jobs, the plant provides business to area farmers, Ramirez said, and its employees and executives are regulars at Two White Doves and The Dump.

"It's tough", President Riley Didion told 27 News about the explosion.

  • Larry Hoffman