Cambria corn plant explosion victims identified

CAMBRIA, Wis. (WBAY) - A third Didion employee was found dead Friday, two days after an explosion at a corn milling plant in Columbia County.

A Didion official made the announcement Friday during a news conference.

Didion Milling Plant operations vice president Derrick Clark identified the three victims Friday:

Duelle Block, mill operator - found early Thursday morning
Robert Goodenow, fork lift operator - found Thursday afternoon
Pawel Tordoff, packing machine operator - found Friday

The Didion rep said Friday that they still do not know what caused the blast but said a fire at the plant on Monday is not related to the explosion.

"We have multiple departments and unit operations that are going on in the milling facility, so, given the scale of the damage, it's really tough to assess what started where. So it is not an accurate statement to say that it started in any one place," Clark said.

The explosion happened Wednesday, about 11 p.m., at the corn milling plant at 501 S. Williams St. in Cambria, across the street from an ethanol plant. Cambria is about 50 miles southwest of Fond du Lac.

The latest information from the Village of Cambria is that 16 employees were inside the Didion Milling Plant at the time of the blast.

Twelve were transported to hospitals via ambulance, Med Flight and Flight for Life.

Our ABC sister station WKOW reports four patients are being treated at UW Hospital's burn center in Madison. Another patient is in the hospital's trauma and life support center.

Two employees were treated and released.

A prayer vigil was held Thursday night at First Presbyterian Church, where the American Red Cross set up a makeshift reception center. It offered families of employees and others in the community "food, beverages and emotional support" according to a news release from the village.

"It's been overwhelming on my Facebook page how many people are praying for the community and supporting the community," Pastor Kristin Frederich said. "A lot of my friends have changed their Facebook pages to support Cambria, pray for Cambria."

"Without the support of the communities around us, this could have been a lot worse. But because of the dedication and the heart that this community and this area has, it was proven today. Cambria may be small in size, but we have an unbelievable heart, and that's shown. That's shown through," Fire Chief Doucette said.

"This is very difficult for everybody that's been there, including the families that sat for hours waiting for some type of information," said Sheriff Richards.

"And I think the big thing that everybody has to realize is that the fire was still active. You had fire departments that were trying to put the fire out to be able to get inside and get to the people that needed their assistance."

Riley Didion, president of Didion Milling, asked people to pray for his team.

"The first thing I would ask for is just prayer. Being a family-owned business around for 44 years, our teams are pretty close," Didion said.

Didion employs more than 200 people in the area.

The Cambria-Friesland School District canceled classes for the day. Classes will resume Friday morning. The graduation ceremony will take place as scheduled. Superintendent Timothy Raymond says counselors from Cambria and surrounding school districts will be available to students on Friday.

A benefit fund is set up at National Exchange Bank. Donations can be made to the Old Mill Foundation Didion Benefit Fund:


National Exchange Bank
118 W. Edgewater St.
Cambria, WI 53923

WKOW spoke with the Cambria village president, who said he was unaware of any threat from chemicals or fumes from the Didion Milling Plant.

Thirty-seven different agencies assisted at the scene.

The Associated Press reports that records from the U.S. Occupational Safety Health and Administration (OSHA) show the plant was cited in Jan. 2011 for worker hazards stemming from filters not having an explosion protective system. The AP reports that Didion paid nearly $3,500 for a fine, and the case was closed in 2013. The plant was not cited by OSHA again.

Action 2 News will continue to update this breaking news story.





 
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