HEYWORTH — Three people suffered minor injuries Tuesday afternoon after an explosion at a grain elevator in Heyworth.
Two contracted employees were transported to a Bloomington hospital, but Heyworth Fire Chief Dennis Powell said the injuries were not serious in nature. A Randolph Township firefighter received nine stitches in his head after a coupling broke loose while he was wrapping up a fire hose.
Powell did not release the names of the victims.
“It could have been a lot worse,” he said. “Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured.”
The elevator, at 702 S. Vine St. on the south edge of town, is owned by Tate & Lyle of Decatur. The explosion occurred at about 4:30 p.m.
Elevator employee Gilbert Gresham told The Pantagraph that several people were working on the elevator itself when “I don’t know what happened but a ball of fire” blew out the conveyor. The conveyor, or legs, carry grain from the elevator into nearby bins.
Kathy Nelson lives in a trailer next to the elevator.
“We just heard a loud boom and it shook the trailer,” Nelson said. “Several of us came running outside to see what had happened. It is generally pretty quiet there. You hear some noises every once in a while, but when we heard it, we knew something had happened.”
Nelson said moments later, ambulances and fire trucks began arriving at the scene. The Bloomington Township Fire Department, Downs Fire Department, Downs Ambulance, McLean County Sheriff’s Department and Heyworth Ambulance Service all assisted the Randolph Fire Department.
Powell said an investigation will begin to determine what caused the explosion and it’s too early to tell how much damage the blast caused.
“Right now, it’s being classified as an industrial accident, but the elevator will be shut down for a few days so they can do a thorough investigation,” he said.
“It blew a few doors off of a storage bin and it appeared to have damaged some concrete as well. But, the owners of the elevator will bring their insurance people in and begin the process of determining exactly what happened. It will probably take months before a final determination is made.”
A company spokesman said it was too early in the investigation to determine a cause.
“We take safety very seriously,” said Chris Olsen, Tate & Lyle vice president for community and government affairs. “We will do an investigation to look at not only the cause of what happened, but to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
He said the company would not have any comment until the investigation begins. He did not have immediate information on how much grain is processed annually at the facility.
-- Troy Semple and Julie Gerke contributed information for this story.