Federal Jury Convicts Two Senior Employees in Wisconsin Corn Plant Explosion Case
In a significant development, a federal jury has found two senior employees of a Wisconsin corn plant guilty of falsifying records and obstructing an investigation into a tragic corn dust explosion that occurred in 2017. This announcement came from officials at the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday.
Corn Dust Explosions: Corn dust is highly explosive, and when it accumulates in large quantities, it poses a serious danger. Federal regulations mandate grain mill operators to conduct regular cleanings to prevent dust build-up that could potentially lead to a catastrophic explosion.
Guilty Verdict for Derrick Clark and Shawn Mesner
On Friday, jurors reached a verdict, finding Derrick Clark, the vice president of operations at Didion Milling, and Shawn Mesner, a former food safety superintendent at the company, guilty of multiple safety, environmental, and fraud charges. These convictions mark the latest developments in a series of legal actions involving Didion employees linked to the tragic 2017 explosion, which claimed the lives of five individuals at the Cambria corn mill owned by the company.
Company Settlement: In a previous development, Didion Milling admitted guilt in September for its employees' falsification of environmental and safety compliance records in the years leading up to the explosion. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to pay a $1 million fine and a total of $10.25 million to the estates of the five workers who lost their lives in the incident.
Charges Against Clark and Mesner
Derrick Clark was convicted on Friday for falsely certifying compliance with the Clean Air Act and providing false information during an investigator's deposition. On the other hand, Shawn Mesner was found guilty of conspiring to deceive Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigators by falsifying sanitation records that were meant to document cleanings aimed at removing corn dust from the mill.
OSHA Statement: Bill Donovan, the OSHA Regional Administrator, emphasized, "Derrick Clark and Shawn Mesner deliberately misled OSHA investigators and provided false information about their knowledge of working conditions at the plant to protect themselves and hide their mistakes."
Sentencing Yet to Be Scheduled
The sentencing for both Derrick Clark and Shawn Mesner has not been scheduled as of now. Notably, at least five other Didion employees have either pleaded guilty or been convicted on charges related to concealing environmental violations, providing false information to investigators, and falsifying cleaning records.
[Image: The remains of a Didion Milling plant in Cambria, Wisconsin, following a June 1, 2017, corn dust explosion.]
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