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Grand jury indicts Didion Milling, six current and former employees after fatal mill explosion

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Madison, WI — A federal grand jury has indicted Didion Milling and six of its current and former employees on nine charges, including two willful violations of OSHA standards.

The indictments stem from a May 2017 explosion and fire that killed five workers and injured 15 others at a corn mill in Cambria, WI.

The grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin decided that the case against Didion and the employees can move forward based on evidence presented that the company violated OSHA standards by failing to develop and implement a written program on combustible grain dust, as well as not installing venting or suppression on a dust filter collector to prevent an explosion.

Didion; Derrick Clark, vice president of operations; Shawn Mesner, former food safety superintendent; Anthony Hess, former shift superintendent; and Joel Niemeyer, former shift superintendent, are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud for allegedly agreeing to “take deceptive measures to conceal the failure to adhere to food safety procedures at the mill.”

 

The company, the four employees, and former environmental coordinators James Lenz and Joseph Winch are charged with conspiracy to commit federal offenses to conceal violations and unsafe conditions from auditors and government agencies. Additionally, Didion, Clark and Hess are charged with obstruction of justice for providing false and misleading testimony to OSHA about their knowledge of the mill’s combustible dust hazards.

Former company shift superintendents Michael Bright and Nicholas Booker have pleaded guilty to making false entries in Didion’s cleaning and baghouse logbooks.

In a May 16 press release, the Department of Labor emphasizes that “an indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.”

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