3 young men killed in Kansas grain elevator blast

By Roxana Hegeman

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Oct. 30 2011 11:10 p.m. MDT

OSHA has expanded its inspections and efforts to control volatile grain dust in Kansas elevators since an explosion in 1998 at DeBruce Grain, Inc.'s facility in Haysville, which killed seven workers and injured 10 others, said Tom Tunnell, executive director of the Kansas Grain and Feed Association, the industry group representing Kansas grain elevators.

He said the industry as a whole has increased awareness of the dangers since a number of elevator explosions along the Gulf in the 1970s.

"If ever an industry is as well trained, it is ours. We understand dust is an explosive agent and our members work hard to control it," Tunnell said Sunday.

The Atchison facility where the blast occurred has not been cited for any violations in the last 10 years, according to OSHA data, though Bartlett Grain Co. was cited after two people died in separate incidents at two of its other facilities. Neither of those fatalities involved explosions at grain elevators.

In 2007, a Bartlett Grain maintenance employee died in a fall from a work platform at the company's facility in St. Joseph, Mo. In 2004, another employee died while operating a lift that fell backward at a company site in Kansas City, Mo.

"The industry has had a good record — except for a few of this type — considering the billions and billions of bushels of grain handled," Tunnell said.

The two people injured in the explosion were taken to the burn unit at University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., hospital spokesman Dennis McCulloch said. One was listed in critical condition Sunday evening and the other was in serious condition, he said.

Cocking said four other people, including one woman, escaped without injuries. No names were being released pending notification of families.

Paul Moccia, who lives about a half mile from the grain elevator, said the explosion shook his house and lights flickered across his neighborhood for about 30 seconds.

"It was extremely loud. It was kind of like to me a double whomp, — a bomp bomp. It reverberated, and kind of echoed down through the valley. ... kind of like a shock wave," said Moccia, 57. "Everybody came outside. Neighbors were trying to figure out what was going on. It was quite a thump."

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Hegeman reported from Wichita, Kan. Associated Press Writer Maria Sudekum Fisher contributed to this report from Kansas City, Mo.

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