ATCHISON, Kan. — The bodies of the final three victims of a grain elevator blast that killed six people and injured two others were recovered Monday morning in Kansas, a company official said.
Three victims were found during the weekend but unstable concrete, hanging steel beams and other damage had forced crews to temporarily call off their search at the Bartlett Grain Co. facility in Atchison, about 50 miles northwest of Kansas City.
Bob Knief, a Bartlett senior vice president, announced the three bodies had been recovered but declined to identify them.
Relatives said two of the three were worker Curtis Field, 21, and state grain inspector Travis Keil. They have said the third person also was a state grain inspector.
Keil was a war veteran who had served as a site inspector for 16 years. His parents, Gary and Ramona Keil, drove from Salina to Atchison to wait with his three children — ages 8, 12 and 15 — as crews searched.
“It’s a parent’s worst nightmare to go through this,” Gary Keil said.
Farmers take their grain to grain elevators after harvest to store it before it is marketed or sold. The Bartlett grain bin is a large, concrete structure used for elevating, storing, discharging, and sometimes processing grain.
The explosion was a harrowing reminder of the dangers workers face inside elevators brimming with highly combustible grain dust at the end of harvest season. The blast fired 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 a concrete silo.
The three Bartlett workers whose bodies recovered earlier were identified as Chad Roberts, 20; Ryan Federinko, 21; and John Burke, 24.
Roberts planned to get married Nov. 19 and take a honeymoon cruise to the Bahamas, said Alicia Cobleigh, his fiancée. She said he liked to hunt and fish and took her fishing. They’d met in high school.
“He was fun, and he couldn’t wait to be a husband and a dad,” she said “We actually bought a house in April and remodeled it.”
Family members and friends turned the sign outside the elevator into a memorial for the workers. A sweatshirt with Federinko’s name written on it in marker also was marked, “Why!”
Bartlett Grain President Bill Fellows said in a statement that workers were loading a train with corn when the explosion occurred, but the cause of the explosion remained unclear. The company brought in a South Dakota-based engineer with expertise in such accidents to help federal safety investigators at the scene.
Over the past four decades, there have more than 600 explosions at grain elevators, killing more than 250 people and injuring more than 1,000, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Last year, there were non-fatal grain explosions or fires in several states including Nebraska, Illinois, Ohio, South Dakota and Louisiana.