Industrial Explosion at Animal Feed Plant in Omaha Nebraska

Omaha, Nebraska experienced an industrial plant explosion at an animal feed processing plant on January 20, 2014. Two of the 38 workers were killed in the blast, and 10 people needed to be taken to the hospital. Of those 10, four remained in critical condition. Seven other employees sustained injuries, but they refused medical treatment. Officials do not know what caused this explosion, but they did state that this plant did not contain any hazardous chemicals. Past industrial explosions have damaged surrounding buildings and have even caused civilians to be injured. However, this was not the case in this incident. The plant is not located in a residential neighborhood, and buildings that surround the plant were not affected. Therefore, people were not forced to evacuate. Directly after this latest chemical plant explosion, employees who were inside the building at the time were able to contact family members on cell phones. Several of the workers’ relatives gathered outside of the plant hoping to see their loved ones walk out of the damaged building. The Search Continues Firefighters have been searching for victims, but the magnitude of this situation requires more help. Bernie Kanger Interim Omaha Fire Chief called in a request for help from Lincoln-based urban search and rescue experts. He expects search and rescue efforts to take several more hours. Damage to the Building This morning’s explosion ignited a fire, but firefighters were able to successfully extinguish it. However, they had to proceed through the building in an extremely cautious manner because everything was so precarious. They were very concerned that debris could start to fall again if anything is unduly disturbed. According to Kanger, the plant has significant damage to the top of the building. Eyewitness Accounts Forklift operator Kendrick Houston was one worker who experienced the blast within close proximity. At the time of the explosion, he was walking on the building’s main floor when he noticed that the ground began to shake. Then, he heard a “crackling sound.” That is when the lights went out and he saw the large fireball in the southwest corner of the plant. Before debris began to fall upon them, Houston and a co-worker hit the floor as smoke, dust and other debris began to rain down upon them. When they had a chance, the two ran outside. According to Houston, “It happened so quick.” Nate Lewis was another worker who was present on the first floor of the plant when the industrial explosion occurred. After the lights went out, Lewis was able to guide his way to safety by the light of his cell phone. He has only been employed at International Nutrition for about four months as a production line worker, but he does not believe that he wishes to continue in his current job. Jamar White was in the vicinity of where the building sustained the most damage. He heard what sounded like a “loud crack.” As he looked up, he watched as the back wall collapsed. At that moment, he decided it would be a good idea to run in the other direction and did so until he believed that he was safe. Waiting Anxiously to See Their Loved Ones Although they knew that their husbands survived the explosion, Diane Stout and Sarah White and their children were anxious to see their loved ones with their own eyes. Stout also expressed concern for the other workers because the animal feed plant is a very close-knit community. White’s husband worked in the location where the explosion occurred every day, and she realizes that he could have been one of the injured.