One killed, 16 injured in explosion at Didion Milling

by Holly Demaree
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Didion Milling
Didion Milling's corn mill in Cambria, Wisconsin, U.S. pictured in 2012.
Photo courtesy of Didion Milling. 
 

CAMBRIA, WISCONSIN, U.S. — One person was killed and 16 others were injured from an explosion and large fire that occurred at Didion Milling’s corn mill in Cambria, Wisconsin, U.S., on May 31.

“Sixteen employees were working at the time, two were able to leave and refused medical treatment,” said Dennis Richards, Columbia County sheriff, following the explosion on May 31. “Fourteen others were not that lucky, we ended up having multiple employees that were transported by EMS and helicopter. We have a confirmed fatality, and still two known employees are missing. This is very difficult for everybody that’s been there especially for families waiting for some kind of information. The fire was still active, firefighters were trying to get inside and get to the people that needed their assistance.”

The explosion occurred in the corn mill, not the adjacent ethanol plant that Didion Milling also owns.  

“Being a family owned business for 44 years our teams are pretty close,” said Riley Didion, president of Didion Milling. “What we do know at this time is there was an explosion and some of our team has sustained injuries and so what we ask for again is prayer. It’s still too early to know the cause. Our teams are fully engaged with fire and rescue and we are going to continue to do so.”

Didion Milling is a Wisconsin-based, family-owned agricultural processing business.

"At this time, the safety and security of our employees is our top priority," said Derrick Clark, vice-president of Operations. "The injured employees have been transported to local hospitals. First responders report one fatality, and there are two employees missing. We cannot release names at this time. Over the past 44 years, the Didion team has grown to be a close knit family, and we ask for your prayers during this difficult time. Didion continues to work with local law enforcement agencies, fire departments and emergency medical services, and we are grateful for their support." 

According to the 2017 Grain & Milling Annual, the facility’s total 24-hour grind capacity is 14,000 bushels with storage capacity of 3.2 million bushels. The products produced at the facility include corn grits, flour, meal and pregelatinized products. The construction of the mill was completed in 1991. It is located 20 miles from Interstate 94 and is situated on the Wisconsin Southern Railroad.

In 2008, Didion Milling completed the construction of the ethanol plant that sits adjacent to the corn mill in Cambria. The ethanol plant uses the byproduct of the corn milling process to produce 50 million gallons of ethanol per year.

Bay State Milling, based in Quincy, Massachusetts U.S., issued a statement via its Twitter account stating, “We were extremely saddened to hear about last night’s explosion at Didion Milling, a corn milling facility in Wisconsin. There is a lot we don’t know about the incident that took at least one life, but we do know that milling, of any kind, is dangerous work. Our thoughts are with those affected by this tragedy. At times like these we are reminded of how important safety is for our brothers and sisters in the industry.”

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