Neighbors remember Tekamah man who died in ammonia leak last year

Posted at 6:00 PM, Oct 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-16 19:24:37-04

It has been a year since an anhydrous ammonia pipeline sprung a leak near the town of Tekamah, killing 59-year-old Phil Hennig after he drove into the cloud of toxic fumes.

A memorial near Hennig's house, not far from the pipelines, sits adorned with flowers, tractors and crosses.

In mid-October 2016, road closed signs blocked entry ways into a stretch of Highway 75, and dozens who evacuated the area couldn't return home for days.

“The year has really gone fast," said George Kahlandt who was evacuated during the leak. "Phil is still missed; we think of him every day when we go by his house."

The Kahlandts rode out the evacuations for days staying at a hotel with their dog.

“It was an unusual time,” Sandra Kahlandt said.

They remember being told to leave.

“Law enforcement came by and told us that we needed to evacuate and go to Decatur,” Kahlandt said.  

“It was kind of misbelief," George Kahlandt said. "It took us a while to figure out what was going on.”

The Kahlandts own a farm and have all sorts of animals. One of their main concerns was what they would find when they returned almost a week later.

“We really kept an eye on especially the bulls, which is right next to the pipeline break. I feed them every day," George Kahlandt said. "It appears that none of them are suffering from any of the effects from the pipeline break which is great.” 

Just weeks ago, the Kahlandts received a brochure from pipeline owner Magellan explaining what to look out for if they suspect a leak.

This time they made sure to look it over.

“We're taking things serious," Kahlandt said. "We've gotten brochures this year and we've read them."