OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Federal safety investigators are looking at
structural problems and a dust explosion as possible causes of an
industrial building collapse in Omaha that killed two workers and
injured 17 others, a federal official said Wednesday.
Inspectors with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health
Administration are working with structural engineers and combustible
dust experts as part of their investigation into Monday's accident at
the International Nutrition building, OSHA spokesman Scott Allen said.
The plant makes nutritional products that are added to livestock and
Some witnesses reported hearing an explosion before the building's
top two floors collapsed into the first floor. But others have suggested
that the sound and fire, which burned some workers, resulted from the
Combustible dust is the technical term for any dust that will catch
fire, and most dust will if it's ground finely enough. That includes
dust from chemicals, plastics, metals and foods.
The material that International Nutrition worked with "can produce a
dust," Allen said. "I don't have all the specifics or details ... about
what products those would be, whether it's grain dust or something
The accident happened Monday morning while 38 workers were in or
around the building. Most managed to escape, though two were killed and
10 were taken to hospitals.
The two workers killed in the collapse -- 53-year-old Keith Everett
and 47-year-old David Ball, both of Omaha -- were trapped in the rubble.
Firefighters were able to retrieve Everett's body Monday evening, but
it took a special urban search and rescue team nearly eight hours to
recover Ball's body from the collapsed building on Tuesday.
Allen stressed that it would likely be weeks before investigators
know what caused the accident. The agency has six months to wrap up its
investigation, he said.
OSHA investigators were able to enter the heavily-damage building Tuesday with the urban search and rescue team, Allen said.
"They've been able to recover some evidence and take some pictures of
the inside," Allen said, but he declined to say what the evidence
included or what the photos showed.
Allen did not know when investigators would be able to re-enter the
building to continue their investigation. City officials have declared
the building unsafe to enter.
A public relations firm hired by International Nutrition said company
officials would not speak to reporters, but the firm did release a
statement from company president Steven Silver expressing sympathy for
the families of those killed and injured in the accident.
"Many of our employees have worked with us for more than 10 years,
and in a family-owned business like ours, the developments that have
taken place over the last day are difficult for all involved," Silver
said in the written release. "In our more than 35 years of doing
business, this is the most serious incident to ever happen at our
operation, and we are fully cooperating with all government
investigators to find the cause."
Silver said he and others will assess the damage over the coming days
and "explore alternate methods of meeting our customers' needs."
The building appears to be too damaged to repair and will likely need
to be razed, said Jay Davis, superintendent of building and development
for the city of Omaha.
"Most likely, repair at this point seems to be impractical," he said,
"but the owner has indicated he will have a private structural engineer
look at it."