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The Daily



08-18-03: Workers in Bremen remain critical
    NEW BREMEN - Two employees injured in a powerful explosion Thursday afternoon at Auglaize Farmers Cooperative Inc. remain in critical condition this morning as investigators try to pinpoint the cause.
    Clyde Wessel, the mill operator, continues to receive treatment for burns in the intensive care unit at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton. Steve Schrolucke, a truck driver at the business, also sustained burns and remains in intensive care at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo.
    Bagged feed is being sold at the elevator, according to feed manager Mike Dammeyer. However, no grinding is being done.
    "We're expecting a structural engineer to arrive sometime today," Dammeyer added. "That should give us a clearer picture of when the entire business will be open."
    Dennis Cummings, an investigator with the Ohio Fire Marshal's Office, is still looking into what triggered the dust explosion.
    "I have to get back with others working at the scene today," he told The Daily Standard. "There is nothing suspicious about what happened."
    The 2:50 p.m. explosion, which blew out windows on all four sides of the tall concrete structure, occurred as Wessel and Schrolucke were approximately 10 feet inside the elevator. Manager Bob Heitkamp, who escaped without injury, also was inside approximately 20 feet from the employees.
    New Bremen-area farmer George Heitkamp had backed his pickup truck to the loading dock and was preparing to walk inside to purchase hog feed. He heard a "big bang" while walking toward the elevator.
    Wessel came out of the building and his clothing showed signs of being burned in the flash fire, which accompanied the explosion. Schrolucke also was outside by the time first responders arrived on the scene.
    The New Bremen Fire Department responded to the scene and extinguished flames resulting from nearby feed bags igniting. They also checked the interior and entered a window at the top of the structure to assure no more flames remained.
    The injured men were taken by ambulance to Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, St. Marys. They were later transferred aboard LifeFlight and CareFlight helicopters. Dammeyer said elevator representatives plan to speak with the Wessel and Schrolucke families later today to receive an update on the employees' conditions.
    George Heitkamp, whose hair was singed, also went by ambulance to Community Hospital in Coldwater, where he was treated then released.


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The Standard Printing Company
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