DIXON – Autopsies are planned Wednesday for two farmers killed when they ruptured a natural gas pipeline while laying field tile about 9 a.m. Tuesday northeast of Dixon.
Two other farm workers were injured in the blast, one critically. The names of all four were withheld Tuesday while family members were being notified, Lee County Sheriff John Simonton said.
Dental records will be needed to make positive identifications, Lee County Coroner Jesse Partington said.
The 20-inch pipe, likely buried 4 or 5 feet underground, was hit when a tractor pulling the tiling plow became stuck, and a second tractor tried to free the first, lost traction and hit it, causing an explosion and a resulting fireball.
Two men died at the scene; the other two were taken by nearby residents to Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital, then transferred to OSF St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, where one was in critical condition, and the other is in what Simonton said is stable condition.