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Cause of deadly Omaha plant explosion unknown

Two Dead in Omaha Plant Explosion

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - After a blast caused much of an Omaha manufacturing plant to collapse, some workers found themselves buried in debris and others scrambled for their lives.

Two of the 38 workers who were at the International Nutrition plant on Monday morning died and 10 were hospitalized with significant injuries, authorities said.

Jamar White was one of the more fortunate ones - he was outside watching trucks unload at the time. White said he heard a loud crack and looked up to see the back wall of the building collapsing.

"I ran at least 150 feet," White said. "I ran far enough to make sure nothing else would keep falling."

Key structural supports failed after the blast, and the second and third floors of the plant collapsed on top of the first floor. The blast knocked out the lights in the building and sent workers fleeing for safety.

Authorities don't know what caused the blast. Omaha Interim Fire Chief Bernie Kanger said at a news conference Monday night that he couldn't say for sure there was an explosion, though workers and other witnesses described hearing an explosion.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is tasked with determining the cause of the accident, but Kanger said the investigation could take weeks. He also noted there were no hazardous chemicals at the International Nutrition plant, which makes products that are added to livestock and poultry feed to make them more nutritious.

Kanger said firefighters were able to rescue five men initially, including one that had to be cut out of the debris. And search-and-rescue experts worked into Monday evening to stabilize the building and remove the body of one victim, 53-year-old Keith Everett of Omaha.

But the combination of strong winds, cold temperatures and the dangerous rubble forced rescuers to suspend operations before the second victim could be recovered, Kanger said. That person's name hasn't been released.

"We've got tens of thousands of pounds of concrete, reinforced concrete and steel," Kanger said, noting the search effort and investigation will resume Tuesday morning. "This is a very significant rescue operation."

The accident was especially troubling for workers and their families because International Nutrition is a small company where most workers know each other.

White's wife, Sarah White, said she was at home with her four children when her husband called after the explosion.

"I could hear the panic in his voice," she said.

She spent the morning waiting with several other workers' families for updates on their loved ones

"All of the people who are hurt are people he works with every day," she said. "I know that? he's OK, but it's still emotional because I know I could be one of those families crying."

Worker Nate Lewis said he was on the first floor when he heard the explosion. The building went dark, so the 21-year-old used light from his cellphone to make his way across the production floor and outside.

"I was a production line worker, although I don't know if I want to be that anymore," said Lewis, who's been at the plant for about four months.

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godmadeonlyoneme January 21 2014 at 9:18 AM

Can Someone tell me HOW this went from an explosion taking 2 lives too Politics?? Come On People.. Accidents DO Happen That Have NOTHING too do with Politics.. Are we going too start blaming Politicians for Automobile Accidents Now??? Im NOT Anti-AMERICAN, But I AM Anti-Administration and even I Wont Blame The Govt. for everything that happens..

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1 reply
mmcdona484 godmadeonlyoneme January 21 2014 at 9:50 AM

Good for you, this was a small private owned company. The people were like family. Yet these people are fighting like it was a large manufacturer fighting unions and government. Hello people this was a plant handling food products. Grain is one of the most explosive items out there. How many times have you heard of the grain storage exploding. The dust from grain is deadly. I worked in a plant that used flour pumped into silo's. This was the most dangerous thing they did pumping flour created dust that was very dangerous.

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cragpretzel January 21 2014 at 7:30 AM

We had an explosion where I worked in 1998. One person was lost and hundreds shaken up. The noise was heard twenty miles away. It destroyed our main building which required a new roof and new floor since they totally redesigned everything. Almost all the jobs are now in Mexico, Texas and China. About 1/4 of the jobs remaining are shortly going to China. I guess the Conservative plan to protect American workers is to eliminate their jobs. If it continues much longer it will be like living in Africa.

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2 replies
captain michael cragpretzel January 21 2014 at 8:14 AM

conservatives blew up your building? democrats and unions raising hourly wage beyond reality make it so american companies cannot possible compete with foreign companies . wake up stop blaming the wrong people. and watch what is going on globally. and you will see whay american companies are leaving. if it costs more to make something here than you can sell it for . you cannot survive.

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4 replies
Tommy cragpretzel January 21 2014 at 8:16 AM

My Mother and sister's jobs also moved to Mexico, making gaskets for car doors. Being an American owned company, it was still considered an American product. The move was primarily 1. to get rid of the union and use cheap labor, and 2. to avoid US environmental laws. Cars are only 'assembled' in the US and Canada. It would be interesting to know where all the supplies come from...

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1 reply
Barry Tommy January 21 2014 at 4:14 PM

Do as the Chinese do. If an American built car is imported into China there is a 23% tax.
Even GM cars subject to this. If Chinese made cars are imported into the US,,, tax is limited to 3%.
yet the Chinese people purchase more foreign made cars than cars made in China. Made in America does mean something, better quality, for one.
Charge 23% tax on imported (Chinese manufactured car parts), see the shift to made in America.

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Heather January 21 2014 at 9:58 AM

I am from Omaha. This is a sad sad accident. It has nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with (and what a horrible joke) Peyton Manning using the term "Omaha" too much, how would you feel if you were the family of these people and read that horribly insensitive joke. I get it. It was a joke, but come on. I am saddened by this accident. And that is all that it was, an accident. I pray for the families of those who died, so far two, and for those who worked there that were hurt, or even shaken up by just being in or near the building. Its sad. And very scary, there are lots of industrial buildings around here, and I know people and love people that work in buildings not unlike this one...my thoughts are with the families. All of them.

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hollawon January 21 2014 at 4:26 PM

Common Sense I have worked in this industry for over 30yrs been thru two explosions and 4 fires no injurys? Man falls thru hole in floor dies? Common sense versas Paperwork from Headquarters I raised hell of useing highley explosive over air they formed a committee 14mos ago still using explosive, paper work sign your life away. They attended saftey meeting here is there signature..........

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hollawon January 21 2014 at 4:37 PM

What was Lewis doing with cellphone in pocket? Could cause explosion in dust enviroment

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Tommy January 21 2014 at 8:11 AM

Perhaps Peyton used the term 'Omaha' one time too many.

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