Cambria mill explosion survivor feeling forgotten nearly one year later, company responds

NOW: Cambria mill explosion survivor feeling forgotten nearly one year later, company responds


CAMBRIA, Wis. (CBS 58) – May marks one year since a deadly explosion in a central Wisconsin village.

Didion Milling was ordered to pay $1.8 million in the blast, but the company appealed the fine.

CBS 58’s Whitney Martin spoke to a survivor who says he feels forgotten and got a response from the company’s president.

“It feels like five days ago. I remember it all, but then at the same time, it feels like years.”

Nearly one year after a deadly explosion rocked the small town of Cambria, Collin Vander Galien has yet to go back to the Didion Milling Plant where he lost his legs and five of his coworkers.

“I’m still here and I still have a ton of people that care about me,” Vander Galien said.

While he hasn’t been back physically, his mind often takes him to the moment he fought for his life while his body was pinned under a train car.

“I try not to think about it a lot, but it is always in the back of my head,” says Collin.

While Collin fights through the mental battle, he pushes through what he calls daily pain, including moments he’ll never forget. At times he feels forgotten.

“It’s hard because right away they said they were there for me. I expected like a phone call or something. Maybe a text message. Nothing. I’ve heard nothing from them,” said Collin.

The company’s president, Riley Didion, says his staff has reached out to victims and regrets any feel forgotten.

“We haven’t heard any of that specifically. And certainly sympathize and hope that’s not the case for anyone on our team,” says Riley Didion, president of Didion Milling.

Despite so many unanswered questions, Collin finds strength at A & B Fitness. He’s come a long, long way. It’s where Amber Alvin has helped him get back on his feet in more ways than one.

“He challenges me to be better,” says Amber.

CBS 58 has been covering Collin’s recovery from the start.

Moments like when he took his first steps with new prosthetic legs to now, just months later, he can take 10 on his own.

“It’s just a matter of balance. Once I get going without anything, it’s just one after another. It goes so fast,” said Collin.

Even in his uphill battle, an inspiring step. Collin met Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo before a home game.

“I was frozen. I didn’t know what to say. I just try to think the way he does. Try to get better each day,” says Collin.

So far, Collin can only receive lost wages through Workers Compensation laws. Wisconsin prevents him from suing Didion for pain and suffering, even if the company is found reckless.

“Do you believe Didion was at fault for the explosion?” Whitney Martin asked Riley Didion.

“I’m not going to comment on that,” Didion said.

Collin says it’s not about the money but the fact that he and so many others are trying to move forward while feeling left behind.

“It’s over and done with and there’s nothing I can do about it. All I can do is just try to get better each day.”

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