Chester residents smelled odor before grain elevator explosion

By Holly Brantley - email

CHESTER, IL (KFVS) - The investigation continues into what caused the explosion at the ConAgra Grain Mill in Chester, IL Tuesday afternoon.

The blast sent four contract workers to the hospital, three with serious injuries. Those workers were from outside the Heartland and worked for West Side Salvage. West Side Salvage is based in Iowa. No word on their conditions Wednesday.

Fire officials say the most likely cause of the explosion is gases from dust mixing with oxygen, however they aren't ruling anything out.

In fact, they want to know more about a smell reported several days earlier from people in Chester.

"I didn't know where it was coming from," said Charles Miner. "I told my wife they must be doing something down at the mill.  It smelled like burnt hair or worse than that."

Debbie Jany also noticed the smell.

"It smelled like maple bacon burning or a real strong odor," said Jany. "After a while, it made you sick."

"We had reports of people smelling some type of odor from the last couple of days," said Chester Fire Captain Marty Bert. "We're not sure if it's from the site but it is part of the investigation."

Wednesday morning, they were able to completely empty the problem bin and put the fire out. They're using a crane to make sure the structure is sound.  He says officials want to make sure they get to the bottom of what  happened to prevent problems in the future.

"Just important to get it done as soon as we can," said Capt. Bert.

Chester's fire department wants to thank all the nearby departments that helped them with the fire.  They say without pooling resources, it could've been much worse. Once the department is certain all fires are out, Captain Bert says it will be up to ConAgra to take over from there.

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