Updated 2 June at 9:30 am.
Around midnight local time on Wednesday night, Didion Milling Co.’s
corn mill suffered a massive explosion and subsequent fire that lasted
until Thursday morning. Sixteen employees were caught in the blast—at
least 2 people are confirmed killed and 13 were injured and are accounted
for. The last worker is missing, but search efforts are slow because portions
of the mill are at risk of collapsing.
The explosion occurred in the village of Cambria, less than 50 miles northeast
of Madison. Cambria is a small village of about 770 people, many of them
employees for Didion’s nearby plants: the corn mill plant and an
ethanol plant down the street. Cambria Village President Glen Williams
commented that the company was an “economic anchor” for the
people in the region. He noted that the explosion would have lasting social,
emotional, and financial effects on the town.
Treatment & Investigation Begins
Of the 13 injured, 5 were airlifted to the University of Wisconsin in Madison—4
were checked into the burn unit, and 1 worker was brought into the trauma
and life support unit. Six more workers were brought to the Divine Savior
Hospital in Portage, but one of them was transferred to the burn unit
at UW. Four workers have been released, but the remaining victim was brought
into the ICU. The rest of the injured were transported to Beaver Dam Hospital
in Dodge County.
Over 35 agencies responded to the explosion, including the Red Cross and
the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Their investigation
into the causes of the explosion has already begun.
There was some indication that the employees caught in the blast were tightly
knit, as Red Cross spokesperson Barbara Behling reported that “at
least 6 families” were involved with the event.
About Didion Milling Co.
Didion Milling Co. was founded by brothers John and Dow Didion in 1972,
and the Cambria corn mill was built in 1991. The mill processed corn for
cereal, beer, and chips, but the company also processes soybeans, steel,
and fuel. Didion Milling Co. employs over 200 people, many of whom live
in and around Cambria. The family-owned company is led by Riley Didion,
who was onsite to answer the press early Thursday morning. He affirmed
that it was still too early to determine the cause.
“We are praying for our team,” he said.
The company’s website posted a note saying they will be closed until
further notice. Our team reports that the mill was previously reprimanded for
exposing workers to explosion hazards.
The story was updated to reflect that one of the missing workers was confirmed dead.