2 deaths confirmed in Omaha plant explosion
OMAHA, Nebraska (AP) — An explosion that brought down part of an animal feed processing plant in Omaha on Monday morning killed two people and seriously injured 10 others, authorities said.
The search for bodies in the crippled International Nutrition plant progressed slowly Monday and had to be suspended in the evening. Omaha Police Lt. Darci Tierney said all 38 of the workers who were in the building at the time had been accounted for, so the death toll wasn’t expected to grow.
Officials said two workers died, 10 were hospitalized and seven were hurt but refused treatment. The other 19 workers escaped.
Authorities said late Monday that Keith Everett, 53, of Omaha, was one of the victims. The other victim’s name hasn’t been released.
Search-and-rescue experts worked into Monday evening to stabilize the building and removed one victim.
But the combination of strong winds, cold temperatures and a dangerous building forced rescuers to suspend operations before the second victim could be recovered, Omaha Interim Fire Chief Bernie Kanger said.
That search effort and investigation will resume Tuesday morning, but there’s difficult work ahead.
“We’ve got tens of thousands of pounds of concrete, reinforced concrete and steel,” Kanger said.
Authorities don’t know what caused the blast, but Kanger noted that there were no hazardous chemicals at the three-story plant. International Nutrition makes products that are added to livestock and poultry feed to make them more nutritious.
The second and third floors of the plant collapsed on top of the first floor as key structural supports failed Monday. Kanger said firefighters were able to rescue five men initially, including one that had to be cut out of the debris.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration will determine the cause of the accident, but Kanger said the investigation could take weeks.
The explosion knocked out the lights in the building and sent workers scrambling for safety.
Worker Jamar White said he heard a loud crack and looked up to see the back wall of the building collapsing.
“I ran at least 150 feet (45 meters),” White said. “I ran far enough to make sure nothing else would keep falling.”
Afterward, White said, he could see inside the third floor of the building where at least two co-workers were screaming for help.
The plant sits in an industrial area of Nebraska’s largest city. There are no residences nearby and no other buildings were evacuated after the explosion.