“We weren’t sure if a bomb went off,” said Franklin Grove resident Colleen Clausen. She and several Dixon area residents are still in shock after two farmers were killed during a routine agricultural installation.
“We looked out that patio door and we saw flames shooting about 100 feet into the air,” Clausen added as she could see the fire from her front door. “We’ve just never had anything like that before,” she said. The incident unfolded Tuesday morning on a field just north of Nachusa, off Route 38.
Investigators say farmers were installing field tiles, which helps prevent flooding. During installation the crew’s tractor got stuck. They brought in a second one to pull it out, but it lost traction.
“Preliminary indications of the accident indicate that a large explosion occurred upon the accidental striking of a natural gas pipeline, resulting in a fire engulfing the scene,” said Lee County Sheriff John Simonton.
Two died in the explosion, two others are recovering in the hospital and are in stable condition. Simonton says his thoughts go out to the families affected. “We have several grieving families that are going to be a part of this process and we’re certainly going to do our best to provide the comfort to them,” Simonton said.
Gas pipeline company Kinder Morgan and the NTSB are investigating the cause of the explosion. “It’s very unfortunate that somebody has lost their lives. Such a tragedy especially at this time of the year,” Clausen said.
Kinder Morgan adds another pipeline was in the area but didn’t get damaged. The ruptured pipeline is secure, no one in the immediate area was evacuated.