The damage to a central South Dakota ethanol plant, where an explosion occurred Sunday, "probably looks a lot worse than it is," according to the owner of the facility.
Walt Wendland, CEO of Ringneck Energy, confirmed to the Argus Leader the company's Onida plant experienced an explosion at about 1:15 p.m.
"Looks like no major equipment damage, but there's a lot of tin [siding] and ceiling tiles to put back in place," Wendland said in a phone call.
Ryan Bombellick, a plant operator who was working at the Onida facility when the explosion occurred, told the Argus Leader the explosion occurred at the plant's main process building.
Bombellick, who was in another building, said the explosion wasn't very loud, but it blew the walls off of every side of the structure.
"There aren't any parts of the wall. Like, the beams are there, but like the insulation and tin [siding] is damaged on every wall of that building," Bombellick said.
Bombellick said there were a few people in an explosion-proof control room near the main building who got an up-close view of the event.
"I talked to somebody who was in there, and they said it looked like a bomb went off in there," Bombellick said. "'Like a Russian rocket hit it,' they said."
The ethanol CEO said six people were working inside the plant at the time of the explosion. No injuries were reported, Wendland added.
Bombellick later said there was one customer on-site that also came away unscathed from the incident.
"We pray every night for the safety of our employees, and our prayers paid off, I'll tell you," Wendland said.
— Jeremey Frost (@FearlessGrain) July 9, 2023
Jeremey Frost, a grain marketing adviser from Onida, caught video of the incident after the explosion shook his house.
"I thought it was the railroad because the railroad is right behind our house. My wife looked out back. There wasn't any railroad," Frost told Argus Leader. "I looked outside and I saw the fire from the ethanol plant. Then I called the sheriff."
The CEO initially guessed that flammable fumes caused the explosion after they entered the facility's air conditioning ducts, but he added an official investigation has yet to take place to determine the cause.
This is a developing story. We will update the article as more information becomes available.
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Ringneck CEO: No injuries reported after Onida ethanol plant explosion