Two Confirmed Dead in Plant Collapse

By: Greg Palmer)
By: Greg Palmer)

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) Omaha Police have identified one of two people killed in the structural collapse at the International Nutrition plant as 53-year-old Keith Everett.

Everett's body was recovered at 5:16 p.m. The body of the second person believed to have been killed in the accident will likely be recovered on Tuesday. Operations were suspended Monday evening due to harsh weather.

The explosion happened near 77th and I Streets around 10 a.m. Omaha Police confirm that all of the employees known to have been in the building have been accounted for. Several were injured.

"Right now, we're classifying this as an industrial accident," Interim Fire Chief Bernie Kanger said but the cause is not yet known.

Thirty-eight workers were inside the building when it collapsed just after 10 a.m. Monday. At least 10 people were taken to the hospital; several others suffered minor injuries.

OFD crews rescued five people from the building wreckage including one who had to be cut from a debris pile of concrete and steel.

Four of those transported were critically injured. Six had non-life-threatening injuries and seven refused care.

Kanger said 50 Omaha Fire personnel were dispatched to the scene and six medical units were sent for mass casualty care.

The chief said portions of the structure have collapsed and the building cannot be completely searched until those damaged areas are stable.

At 2 p.m., the operation switched from rescue to recovery mode. Emergency crews were pulled out of the unstable structure.

Just after one o'clock, several workers,who had been inside the building, came out of International Nutrition. Nate Lewis told WOWT 6 News he was on the first floor. He said, "It's pitch black in there. I had to feel my way out." Lewis added that he also used the flashlight on his cell phone to get out.

Lewis said first responders had been keeping him and a few others in a room. They were given food and blankets to stay warm. Many of the workers had cuts and some various bumps and bruises.

Another worker, Jamar White, said, "I can't describe it. Intense. I'm just happy to be here." At the time of the explosion, he was outside working on a truck. He said he felt the fire on his back, but was uninjured.

Jamar’s mother, Terri Lynn Davis, said, “He was outside working; washing the trucks. And he said someone called out for him> He didn't know who it was. He walked towards them and he said the next thing he knew there was a big explosion. He felt the heat. He said he felt the heat on the back of him and he kept running and running."

Officials contacted Nebraska's Urban Search and Rescue Team, based in Lincoln, for help. They were on scene by 3 p.m.

The Omaha Fire Department also has a chaplain at the scene, in the International Paper parking lot, to speak with families of employees. The American Red Cross is also available with its mobile unit.

The Nebraska Medical Center reported that they've received four patients: a 50-year-old male with hypothermia, (he had reportedly been laying in water for some time), a 37-year-old male with a collapsed lung, and a 38-year-old man with minor injuries, and a 30-year-old with minor injuries.

The Medical Center's Medical Trauma Director, Dr. P.J. Schenarts, said when the call came in for mass casualties, the hospital jumped into action. They had a total of 30 to 45 staff members ready for patients.

"We had a handful of trauma surgeons who were all right at the door," Dr. Schenarts said. "We paired each surgeon with a resident surgeon and a nurse practitioner, so there were a series of teams."

Six patients were taken to Alegent Creighton Health hospitals after the accident at International Nutrition. Three patients went to Creighton University Medical Center and three to Bergan Mercy Medical Center.

By Monday afternoon one patient at CUMC had been upgraded to serious condition. Two patients were transported to St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center. At Bergan Mercy, one patient was listed in serious condition Monday afternoon while two patients had been treated and released.

Five medical units and several officers responded to the call when it first came in just after 10 o'clock; however, a "Level One Multi-Casualty" alert was issued almost immediately after the first crews arrived on scene.

One firefighter was injured at the scene, suffering a hand laceration. Chief Kanger said the injury is not life-threatening.

Kari Cook told WOWT 6 News her fiance, John Broderick, sent her a text message at 10:09 a.m. It read, "Major accident. I'm hurt and trapped. I love you." Broderick works on the second floor of the building as a supervisor. He was rescued and taken to the hospital with broken ribs and a deflated lung.

Adam McCall works at LA Marketing, near International Nutrition. He told WOWT 6 News he heard a loud noise and then saw a fireball, seconds before the building collapsed. He immediately called 911.

Rob Rohwer is a former employee of the plant and he was among those who assembled outside of the building as word of the accident spread.

“I would never guess that something like this would happen, he said.”

After six years on the job, he knows the plant inside and out and he told us, “I'm definitely praying for the victims."

Larry McElhinney was behind the wheel of a truck that was sitting in wreckage by Monday afternoon.

He told us, "Those on the other side heard a boom but I didn't hear a thing.

“I was sitting in the truck and heard stuff hitting top of cab and saw a bunch of dust. I didn't hear any explosion. I saw a bunch of people running."

According to its website, International Nutrition has serviced the U.S. feed industry for over 40 years. Omaha Interim Fire Chief Kanger said there are no hazardous chemicals inside the structure.

According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration records, a worker was killed in this plant in 2002 when he fell into an auger.


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