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A new phase after a deadly accident

Family who lost father and son in explosion auctioning of farm equipment; farmhand finally released from rehab

DIXON – Three months after a deadly pipeline explosion took the life of father and son farming partners, their survivors and partners appear to be retiring, and are auctioning their tools and machinery.

Rory H. Miller, 59, of Amboy, and Ryan S. Miller, 30, of Oregon, were laying tile in a field northeast of the intersection of state Route 38 and Nachusa Road around 9 a.m. Dec. 5 when a tine from the tiling plow hit a 20-inch natural gas pipeline, sparking an explosion that killed the Millers instantly and injured two of their workers.

Kyler Ackland, 20, of West Brooklyn, was treated and released that day, and the most severely injured worker, 20-year-old Michael Koster of Sterling, was released Wednesday from the Chicago rehabilitation facility where he has been recovering the last month.

Rory Miller and his wife, Kathy, Ryan Miller and his wife Jill, and Mark and Gloria Nusbaum were partners in M&R Farms, at 1684 Nachusa Road. The accident happened on nearby land they were renting.

A “retirement and estate auction” begins at M&R at 10 a.m. Monday. Up for sale are implements, trailers, pickup trucks, storage tanks, electronics, hand tools, shop tools, hardware – 167 items or lots in all. Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers is handling the sale.

The Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration still are investigating the explosion.

The pipeline is owned by energy supplier Kinder Morgan Inc. and its subsidiary, Geneseo-based Natural Gas Pipeline Co. of America. Neither Kinder Morgan nor JULIE were notified that digging would be done in the field, they have said.

Kinder Morgan paid Lee County about $14,400 under its “spiller pays” ordinance, which requires such reimbursement for costs incurred when hazardous materials are spilled during the course of an emergency.

The money will be divvied up among the agencies that responded, said Kevin Lally, director of the Lee County Emergency Management Agency.

“We appreciate the support and efforts from all of the responding agencies,” Kinder Morgan said in a statement Wednesday.

Thanks to the efforts of his mom and sister, folks have been able to follow Koster’s remarkable progress on the website

Koster, son of Norm and Ann Koster, was on a backhoe when the line exploded. He rolled on the ground to extinguish the flames, which left him with second- and third-degree burns on his hands, arms, legs and back – about 50 percent to 60 percent of his body.

He was taken to OSF St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, where he was treated for a little more than 9 weeks before being transferred Feb. 8 to the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago for physical therapy and other treatment.

On Tuesday, his last full day at the Shirley Ryan, Ann posted:

“Today was evaluation day for M on many of the things he has been working on: balance tests, speed walking, getting in and out of a bed and a car, sitting and rising from a chair six times in a row, and so forth. Out of 30 total possible points, M scored a 29! The therapist said the only thing he lacks now is strength, which he can easily build in time. All very good news!” 

She noted that he would be leaving the facility Wednesday morning in his own pickup truck – “M is looking forward to that!”

“It hardly seems possible all the hospital and rehab days will be behind us and life will move on to a new phase. How grateful we are for this blessing.” 

A GoFundMe campaign to help with his medical expenses has raised more than $28,000 of its $30,000 goal.


A GoFundMe account to help the Kosters with Michael's medical expenses has been established, and as of Wednesday afternoon, $28,746 of the $30,000 goal had been reached.

Go to to donate.


Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers is holding an estate and retirement auction Monday at M&R Farms, 1684 Nachusa Road in Dixon.

Up for sale are farm machinery, trailers, pickup trucks, storage tanks, electronics, hand tools, shop tools and hardware – 167 items or lots in all. Photos and descriptions are posted at

Items also can be previewed in person from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and from 7 a.m. until the sale begins at 10 a.m. Monday.

Smaller items, such as the tools, electronic equipment and hardware, will be sold first; the tractors and other large implements will be sold after that.

Those who can't make the sale in person can bid online; register at the website. Call Ritchie Bros. at 800-663-8457 for more information.


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