Two truck drivers injured in dust explosion at POET
CLOVERDALE — Two truck drivers were injured in a dust explosion at POET Biorefining Friday afternoon.
The incident took place around 12:30 p.m. in the grain-loading facility of the plant at 2265 E. CR 800 South, north of Interstate 70 near Cloverdale.
Two truck drivers — not POET employees — who were unloading corn were injured in the blast. They were taken to the hospital by Operation Life ambulances.
“At approximately 12:30 p.m. team members at POET Biorefining – Cloverdale contacted emergency responders after dust ignited in a grain-loading facility at the site,” plant general manager Jaime Hernandez said. “It was quickly extinguished, and two people were transported to an area hospital for treatment and were later released.”
When the Cloverdale Township Fire Department arrived on the scene, firefighters found only a bit of smoldering fire in the dust collector. They put it out with some water and then set about looking for any more trouble spots.
Cloverdale Fire Chief Kerry Shepherd said the timing of the accident was fortunate, as there were few people in the area.
“A lot of the employees were at lunch at the time so there weren’t a lot of people back there,” Shepherd said. “We got really lucky.”
Cloverdale firefighters arrived on the scene reporting “extensive damage” in the area, immediately calling for help that ultimately included the Greencastle, Reelsville, Jefferson Township and Cataract fire departments.
The Poland Fire Department was also dispatched to cover the Cloverdale fire station.
At one point, responders called for an aerial truck from the Plainfield Fire Department. However, once Cloverdale firefighters got a good look at the situation, the aerial was disregarded.
Shepherd said the Plainfield assistant chief was nearby, so he responded to the scene.
Greencastle’s aerial truck was out of service at the time.
Firefighters remained on the scene until shortly before 3 p.m.
“We are thankful for the response from emergency services to deal with the situation and for our team members who quickly implemented POET’s emergency action plan,” Hernandez said.
Based on reports from POET officials, Shepherd estimated $1 million in damages.
Regardless of damages, Hernandez said the priority was safety, making the condition of the drivers good news, all things considered.
“Our immediate concern is for the well-being of those injured, and we pray for their quick recovery,” Hernandez said. “Safety at all POET facilities is our top priority. We will examine these circumstances closely and work to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Shepherd said the cause of the blast remains unknown, as all of the bearings in the conveyor system have heat sensors that can shut the system down to avoid situations of this nature.
He said the investigation is in POET’s hands.
“They’re just going to have to go back through their computer system and see what happened,” Shepherd said.
POET has owned the 92 million-gallon-per-year biorefining facility since 2010.
The plant produces both corn-based ethanol fuel as well as livestock feed.