LEE COUNTY, Ill. (KWQC) – Don Bitler has lived on the outskirts of Dixon for only a few months. But in that short time, he has found the town to be a generous one.
“This community has just shown so much support, and it’s going to make me stay here for the rest of my life I believe,” Bitler said.
The veteran was in town Tuesday morning when he saw smoke coming from the outskirts of town. It was until 24hours later he found out someone he knew was involved the accident.
“I found out about it roughly 8 o’clock this morning that it was you know actually my neighbor, Norm, his son,” Bitler said.
According to Bitler, Michael Koster was a farm hand on the property where the explosion took place.
“Michael just started this job with these farmers recently and his dad’s real proud of him for it,” Bitler said.
The 20-year-old was left in critical condition when a natural gas pipeline in a field off of route 38 was hit while farmers were doing tiling work. Another 20-year-old, Kyler Acklund, was also injured in the accident. Rory Miller and Ryan Miller, ages 59 and 30 respectively, were killed.
“We’ll be praying for him,” Bitler said of his Koster. “Our family’s praying for him.”
Bitler says he owes a debt of gratitude to the Koster family. He and Michaels father became close after Bitler was going through a tough time.
“We were t-boned in an accident and it was our only vehicle at the time when we moved here,” Bitler said.
The father of a one-year-old took his bike down the road to see if his new neighbors could help fill up his tires. To his surprise, they offered something more.
“He let us borrow his vehicle for the entire weekend until we were able to get a rental vehicle,” Bilter said.
Now he says it is his turn to lend a neighborly hand.
“I’m going to be going down and helping on the farm with getting the animals fed and doing as much as I can,” Bitler said.
“They’re family they’re kind of small organic farmers,” he added.
Bitler says it's a tough time for the Koster family.
“You know, he’s obviously in critical condition and there’s been special doctors coming to see him,” he said.
According to Bitler, Michael has five other siblings. Bilter says he will do what he can to support the family through this trying time.
“You know we’re here for them. It’s the most important thing.”
A Go Fund Mepage has been set up to help support medical costs for the family.