Crews suspended their search Sunday for three people missing after a thunderous explosion Saturday at Bartlett Grain Co. elevator in Atchison, KS, about 50 miles northwest of Kansas City, killed three workers and hospitalized two others with severe burns.
The Kansas Grain and Feed Association (KGFA) expresses its deepest sympathy to the families of the Bartlett Grain and Kansas Grain Inspection Service Inc. (KGIS) employees who lost their lives or were seriously injured in this unexpected accident.
“On behalf of the Kansas Grain and Feed Association, I want to convey our sincere sadness over both the Bartlett and KGIS employees that passed away at our member’s facility,” said Stan Stark, KGFA Board Chairman. “Our prayers and condolences are with all of the families that are grieving.”
Elevators in Kansas have increased their focus on safety in the grain handling industry over the last few decades, thus invest extensive amounts of time and resources into training and education to ensure grain dust is controlled.
Grain storage facilities are strictly regulated by both state and federal agencies.
Officials with the company that owns and operates the elevator said in a statement that they know the location of those who are missing and will resume the search at some point. They have brought an engineer to the scene to help develop a plan on how to continue the recovery effort.
The blast, which shook the ground so hard that it was felt into neighboring Missouri, is a harrowing reminder of the dangers workers face inside elevators brimming with highly combustible grain dust at the end of the harvest season.
The explosion Saturday night sent an orange fireball into the night sky, shot off a chunk of the grain distribution building directly above the elevator and blew a large hole in the side of the one of its concrete silos.
Bartlett Grain Co. officials decided to temporarily halt the search for the three missing people – one worker and two grain inspectors — because it was unsafe to be inside the facility, said Atchison City Manager Trey Cocking. Smoke could still be seen billowing from the top, and officials were fearful the building could fall on top of rescue crews.
“It’s a fairly dangerous situation. We don’t feel comfortable putting fire crews in,” Cocking said.