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Worker escapes injury in propane explosion

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
February 4, 2012
— No one was hurt in a propane truck explosion Friday that closed a section of Highway 59 and kept firefighters from more than a dozen fire departments on the scene for nearly three hours.

The explosion, which is still under investigation, happened at 3:11 p.m. Friday at Landmark Services Cooperative, a farmers cooperative and fuel supplier at 12743 East Highway 59, just southwest of Whitewater in Lima Township.


A hose became disconnected when a worker was trying to transfer propane from a holding tank into a tanker truck in a metal, free-standing building that was the northernmost building and 50 to 75 yards from any other structures, said Capt. Jude Maurer of the Rock County Sheriff’s Office.


“The worker tried to reconnect the hose but was unable. Upon realizing the severity of the situation, the worker fled from the building. Moments later, the escaping propane led to the explosion,” Maurer said.


According to a news release from Wisconsin Emergency Management, the truck tank was filled with 3,400 gallons of propane.


It isn’t known how much propane was in the larger supply tank or if it was involved in the explosion, the release said.


Maurer said no damage estimates were available.


“The building that was compromised as a result of the explosion sustained extensive damage,’’ he said.


A person on scene told Maurer that nearby residents saw one large explosion followed by several smaller explosions.


Several other buildings stand on the site, including elevator silos, Maurer said.


The fire from the explosion reportedly damaged one nearby building, according to the Wisconsin Emergency Management news release.


Landmark Services Cooperative was known as Cooperative Plus until October, when it merged with Landmark, based in Cottage Grove. According to Landmark's website, the Whitewater facility has agronomy, energy and grain divisions.


The Department of Labor issued $721,000 in penalties to Cooperative Plus after a worker was seriously injured at its Burlington facility in February 2010. The cooperative faced other penalties later that year for federal workplace safety violations at both its Whitewater and Genoa City sites, according to Channel 3000.


Although a half-dozen houses are within a quarter-mile of the explosion, Maurer said no evacuations were necessary.


Deputies rerouted traffic between County Line Road and County KK while Highway 59 was shut down.


The Whitewater Fire Department was the primary fire department on scene and received mutual aid from the following fire departments: Edgerton, Janesville, Lauderdale-LaGrange, East Troy, Darien, Fort Atkinson, Clinton, Sharon, Milton, Palmyra, town of Beloit and town of Turtle.



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