A grain elevator explosion in LaCrosse this morning critically injures four employees. Jonah Pacione, 19, and Emilio Galicia, 43, were airlifted to St. Joseph Burn Center in Fort Wayne. Craig Chase, 34, and Chris Fort, 26, are patients at Porter Memorial Hospital in Valparaiso. All four sustained burns, but none of the injuries are believed to be life-threatening. Co-Alliance CEO Kevin A. Still says company personnel will be on-site at the hospitals to provide support and assistance to the employees and their families.
LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Captain Mike Kellams says the explosion occurred just before 9 a.m. Central. The cause remains under investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office and OSHA. Kellams says foul play is not suspected. He adds early indications are it was an industrial accident. The facility makes hog feed from rolled corn, and grain silos are historically volatile.
“It was a very large explosion, and there is a large amount of structural damage to the building. Right now our concern is structural collapse, so they are keeping everyone away from the building,” Kellams said during a media briefing.
A neighbor who lives to the west of the structure said he thought the loud boom he heard was thunder until he heard the sirens. Another thought it may have been an earthquake. Streets in the immediate area remain closed for safety’s sake and will be for the foreseeable future. The LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department will have a presence there through the night to maintain security.
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