Two charged in connection with Magellan pipeline break

MARSHALL — Criminal charges have been filed against two men in connection with a Magellan pipeline break that spilled thousands of gallons of diesel fuel into a drainage ditch in April.

Tanner Sik, 19, made his first appearance in Lyon County District Court on Wednesday on charges of first degree criminal property damage. Court documents said a second person, Eric Weckwerth Pineda, 23, is being charged with aiding and abetting property damage. However, Weckwerth Pineda did not appear for a scheduled court hearing Wednesday morning.

The charges come nearly three months after an estimated 8,400 gallons of fuel were released into a Yellow Medicine/Lyon County judicial ditch that flows into the Yellow Medicine River. Emergency responders, including the Marshall, Cottonwood and Hanley Falls fire departments, worked to contain the spill. However, spokespeople for Magellan Midstream Partners said “minor remnants” of fuel did make it into the river.

After the incident, Lyon County Attorney Rick Maes said the pipeline had been punctured by a gunshot, and a suspect had been identified.

Criminal complaints filed in Lyon County allege Sik and Weckwerth Pineda were shooting guns near the Cottonwood Lake dam on April 24. Sik shot at and hit the pipeline west of the lake, the complaints allege.

The damage to the pipeline cost $167,079 in repairs, the complaint said. Emergency cleanup of the diesel spill cost $962,553.

Sik appeared in court on Wednesday, and applied for a public defender. Judge Michelle Dietrich said Sik’s bail would be set at $30,000 without conditions, or he would be released on conditions including that he make future court appearances and stay in Minnesota. His next hearing date was set for July 30.

Dietrich said first degree criminal property damage is a felony, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.

Weckwerth Pineda’s case was also brought before the judge Wednesday morning. However, by half an hour after the scheduled hearing time, Weckwerth Peneda still had not appeared in court. Maes said he recently learned mail sent to Weckwerth Pineda at a Cottonwood address had been returned. Maes said he would check with law enforcement to see if Weckwirth Pineda’s address had changed.

Dietrich said she would wait until noon Friday to issue a warrant for Weckwerth Pineda’s arrest.