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Back to work at Didion Milling after deadly explosion: “Powerful to have everyone back together”

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CAMBRIA -- After an explosion led to the deaths of four workers at Didion Milling in Cambria, those who survived the deadly explosion are trying to find the strength to move forward together.

The explosion happened late on May 31st at the plant in Cambria. One week after the explosion, workers were back on the job.

"Really powerful to have everyone back together," Riley Didion, president of Didion Milling said.

Duelle Block, Robert Goodenow, Pawel Tordoff

Four people, Angel Reyes, a 46-year-old pack operator, Paul Tordoff, a 21-year-old pack operator, Duelle Block, a 27-year-old mill operator, and Robert Goodenow, a 52-year-old forklift operator were killed in the blast. Eleven others were hurt.

"I think our teams are going to go through that little bit of a roller coaster, right? We all are gonna grieve in a different process," Riley Didion said.

Didion said picking up the pieces has begun with taking care of one another.

Didion Milling in Cambria

"We talk about it as a team and as a family. There's gonna be good days and there's gonna be bad days, or maybe challenging times, and I think what's important for our team to know is as a family, we're not going anywhere. The way the community has responded has kind of blown our whole team away," Didion said.

Didion Milling employees returned to a workplace different than the one they once knew.

"We've had to place our people in different teams in different departments. Some of those products are made in Markesan. Some of them are made in Johnson Creek, so we'll transition some of our teams there," Didion said.

Explosion at Didion Milling Plant in Cambria

The ethanol facility is back up and running after the explosion, but the milling plant was lost.

The workers are now moving forward, while remembering their friends who were lost.

"I think that's one of those next milestones that we have as a company, of, OK -- where are we going and what are we doing? And let's rebuild tomorrow and let's not forget," Didion said.

The cause of the explosion remains under investigation.

Explosion at Didion Milling in Columbia County

There are several ways to help the families of the men killed, and all those impacted by this tragedy.

Here are some of the upcoming fundraising events:

A fund has been set up at the National Exchange Bank in Cambria to donate to the families.  Funds can be mailed or dropped off at:

Old Mill Foundation Didion Benefit Fund
National Exchange Bank
118 West Edgewater Street
P.O. Box 338
Cambria, WI  53923


The Kattywampus Quilt Guild invites you to join them in making sixteen Prayer Quilts for the families most affected by the Didion Mill explosion.  They will be quilting on Friday, June 30th and Saturday, July 1st in the Cambria Community Room at 115 West Edgewater Street, Cambria.  If you can help please contact Tami Eisenga at 920-960-3652 or Phyllis Fuller at 920-296-9215.  If you have an embroidery machine and would make the personalized labels please contact Kathy Nehmer at 920-326-3814.  The Prayer Quilts will be available for anyone interested in saying a prayer as they tie a knot during the Benefit Dinner on July 15th held at the C-F School at 410 East Edgewater Street.

Don Klug of the Columbus Pick 'N Save has volunteered to cater a benefit meal on Saturday, July 15th from 4:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the Cambria-Friesland School at 410 East Edgewater Street, Cambria.  The Cambria Kiwanis Club and C-F school district will assist with set up, serving, and clean up.  This will be a two piece chicken dinner, coleslaw, potato wedges, potato salad, beverage, and cookie for a minimum $5.00 donation.  All proceeds will go the Didion Benefit Fund.

David Scrima of T Shirt International was contacted by Cheryl Jarvis of Waukesha and he has donated 500 T-shirts.  They are still finalizing the design but the design will include the slogan Cambria has Heart. When available the shirts will be sold for $20 each. If all are sold, $10,000 will be donated to the Didion Benefit Fund.  An announcement will be made when the T-shirts are available.

Due to the overwhelming response in donations for the families of Didion Milling the collection site for food and other items will no longer be the First Presbyterian Church. It has been changed to the Cambria-Friesland School at 410 East Edgewater Street.  Items most needed are: gas cards, diapers, soap, shampoo, deodorant, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, toothbrushes, paper towels, and detergent.  Small and medium sized boxes for packing food and goods in are also needed.

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