Three blast victims remain in hospital

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Three of the four victims of a Hormel Foods Corporation plant fire and explosions remain hospitalized.

The fourth victim has been released.

According to a spokesperson for Regions Hospital, St. Paul, Lee Johnson, 50 of Austin, was released from Regions Hospital Saturday.

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Still hospitalized are Chad Swenson, 21, Joe Welke, 54,

and Andrew Wolf, 33, all of Austin.

Swenson and Welke are listed in fair condition.

Wolf's condition continues to be unknown, because he has asked the hospital to report that his condition not be made known to the public.

Jeremy McCullough, 27 of Albert Lea, was treated and released from Austin Medical Center soon after the explosion.

State Fire Marshal Tom Brace announced a week ago the Sept. 5 events were the result of dust explosions in the grinder room of the rendering department at the company's flagship plant in Austin. The explosions were investigated by the State Fire Marshal's office and the Austin Fire Department.

According to the investigators, a series of dust explosions in a tank occurred near 12:30 a.m. Sept. 5. A natural gas line was weakened and eventually ruptured about two hours later.

A week later, the area was declared safe enough to reopen and operations in the rendering department's grinder room resumed.

Lee Bonorden can be reached at 434-2232 or by e-mail at