Haysville, KS Grain Elevator Explosion, June 1998
RESCUERS SEEK SURVIVORS OF BLAST.
Haysville, Kan. (AP) - Rescuers dug through an underground tunnel today trying to reach four people believed buried under tons of rubble in an explosion at a huge grain elevator complex.
Two people were killed and 11 injured Monday morning, when the blast blew out both ends of the DeBruce Grain Elevator.
Rescuers heard "thudding sounds" in the area they were searching early today, said Fire Chief Gary Curmode.
"We don't know if they're still alive or if they're dead," said Horacio Velasquez, who said his brother-in-law NOEL NAJEROA, 25, was one of the missing workers.
"We're just waiting."
The rescuers early today abandoned the search down one 1,200-foot tunnel, frustrated because grain kept falling back into areas they had cleared with shovels and small bulldozers. The tunnel seemed in danger of collapse, said fire official Kevin Holman.
The team continued working on a tunnel that runs parallel to the first one.
The explosion blew out both ends of the elevator, knocking holes the size of a house in the 165-foot tall head-house. That centrally located portion of the complex, about 35 feet taller than the bins, houses the main conveyor system and the control center from which grain movement is regulated.
Grain dust can be highly explosive.
"With the right mixture of dust in the air, it can be just as explosive as dynamite," said Tom Marple, Kansas Director of the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Helicopters and a 300-foot crane had to be used to rescue six men from the top of the elevator. Four others were rescued from inside.
Of the 11 injured people, three remained hospitalized in critical condition, one was in serious condition, two were fair and the others were treated and released.
Robert Martin was operating a forklift in a warehouse next to the elevator complex, which is one-half to three-quarters of a mile long.
"You could hear a rumble and there was the loudest explosion you've ever heard," Martin said. "The metal and rafters just bent like Saran Wrap."
Haysville is about five miles south of Wichita.
Indiana Gazette Pennsylvania 1998-06-08
List of Casualties:
JOSE PRAJEDES ORTIZ, 24.
JOSE LUIS DUARTE, 40.
HOWARD GOIN, 65.
VICTOR CASTANEDA, 26.
RAYMUNDO DIAZ-VELA, 23.
LANNY OWEN, 43.
NOEL NAJEROA, 25.