CAMBRIA (WKOW) -- Neighbors and witnesses are reacting to the deadly explosion at Didion Milling Plant in Cambria.
The explosion happened around 11:00 p.m. Wednesday. One person was killed and two employees are still missing. Eleven others were sent to area hospitals, while the Columbia County Sheriff says two employees were able to escape unharmed.
Rodney Ashcraft lives in a neighborhood right behind the explosion site. He tells 27 News, "It was just a loud, very loud explosion. The house shook. We didn't know if it was an earthquake... if it was a bomb, we didn't know what was going on."
Ashcraft says the blast was very intense and shook everyone in his household. Then, complete darkness. "It was a major blackout out here. Normally it's lit up very well in this area because of the school and everything, but it was complete blackout." Alliant Energy did report power outages in the area at first, but power has since been restored.
Ashcraft says it was his wife who told him the milling plant was on fire. "As soon as I got to the back door there you could just see flames. As I was coming back to the door. The second explosion happened, and it was a big cloud, white cloud with the flames."
The Didion Milling Plant is pretty close to town. Cambria is a small community, fewer than 800 people, and Didion President Riley Didion indicated everyone in town is close. Ashcraft agrees, saying, "Everybody's family friendly here, family oriented. It's very, very intense. Very emotional. My wife's still shook up."
As of now, neighbors are praying for and helping the victims' families. You can help by contacting the American Red Cross at (800) RED-CROSS.