It didn’t take long for emergency responders to arrive to the scene of an explosion on Thursday morning in La Crosse.
The 911 Center in La Porte County received a call of an explosion just before 9:00 a.m. An Indiana State Trooper was in the area and heard the explosion before arriving on scene.
An initial investigation revealed that a grain elevator – used for hog feed year-round – had exploded. The La Crosse Fire Department, and LaPorte EMS and EMA Departments responded to the scene.
LaPorte County Sheriff John Boyd says triaging the patient’s injuries was essential.
“At this point, we don’t know how many employees were working at the Co-alliance at the time, but all have been accounted for,” says Boyd.
The grain elevator in question is operated by Co-Alliance – which owns grain elevators around the state. That structure is on Howard Street in La Crosse.
Four workers at the site experienced injuries in the explosion – all of which critically. Two were flown from the scene to a hospital in Fort Wayne. Two others were transported to Porter Memorial Hospital in Porter County.
At this time, emergency officials have not determined the cause of the explosion. Minor flames were present at the scene. It took fewer than 30 minutes to extinguish. Chemicals were also present, but none were compromised.
Boyd says additional concern came for nearby residences.
“La Crosse High School is approximately one block away and that would have been a real concern for us if we needed to evacuate those students,” says Boyd. “But of course because there was no leak, there was no compromise of any of those chemicals, there was no need for an evacuation.”
The investigation, as part of routine procedure, has been turned over to the Bureau of Firearms, Tobacco, and Explosives and OSHA.
Now that the situation has largely been contained, a collapse of the grain elevator is considered the biggest concern. Co-alliance may be responsible for providing fencing and security at the site to prevent additional injury. The grain elevator structure will likely need to be taken down.
Representatives of Co-alliance will be at the scene throughout the day. The remaining workers may be transferred to other grain elevator sites in the state to continue work.
The names of the injured workers are not being released at this time.