An explosion Monday morning at an Omaha, Neb., animal-feed plant killed two workers and injured 10, according to news reports.
Authorities told the Associated Press that they had accounted for all 38 of the workers who were in the plant at the time of the blast. However, gusty winds, bitterly cold temperatures and unstable conditions inside the plant Monday evening hampered the efforts to find the second victim.
The International Nutrition plant makes animal supplements and feed products.
Forklift operator Kendrick Houston told an Omaha World-Herald reporter that he witnessed a spark and “a big ball of flame coming from the southwest corner of the building.” Houston and others described a chaotic scene immediately after the blast, as some scrambled to the exits and others retreated to look for their co-workers.
“It was disarray,” Houston told the Omaha World-Herald. “All the lights were out. It was pitch black. ... I think it was still burning in that corner.”
Jamar White told the World-Herald that he started running when he “felt a fireball at his back.” When he stopped to look at what had happened, he saw a hole in the factory wall and at least two workers trapped on an upper floor, according to the newspaper.
“It was terrible,” he said. “I could see a couple of my co-workers screaming for help.”
“My deepest condolences go out to the families and communities that lost loved ones in the tragedy at International Nutrition Inc. in Omaha," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "It is heartbreaking when workers lose their lives while providing for their families.
Prez said that OSHA investigators are on-site and will conduct a full and thorough investigation. "There are many questions yet to be answered about what caused this disaster, but I am confident that the answers provided by federal, state and local officials can offer lessons that will help avoid tragedies like this one in the future,” said Perez.
According to OSHA’s inspection database, the agency last inspected the plant in November 2011 and issued six citations for serious violations. OSHA cited the plant for violations involving: medical services and first aid; material storage; machine guarding; compressed air; and electrical wiring.
Through an informal settlement with the agency, International Nutrition reduced the proposed OSHA fines from $19,600 to $10,430, according to the database.