ATCHISON The final three bodies were recovered Monday from the burnt wreckage of a Kansas grain elevator where a weekend explosion killed six people and injured two others, a company official said.
The first three bodies were found during the weekend but unstable concrete, hanging steel beams and other damage had forced crews to temporarily suspend the search for the remaining victims at the Bartlett Grain Co. facility in Atchison, about 50 miles northwest of Kansas City.
The final three victims' bodies were recovered Monday morning, said Bob Knief, a Bartlett senior vice president.
Knief declined to discuss the identities of the three victims found Monday, but relatives identified two of them as 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.
Field's parents, Lynn and Patty Field of Atchison, had come to the grain elevator early Monday to wait for word about their son.
"I don't know what else to do," Patty Field said. Then, starting to cry, she added, "I just want him home — I mean, out of there. I want him home, but I know he's not coming home."
One of the injured was in critical condition and the other was listed as serious on Monday, said Bob Hallinan, spokesman for The University of Kansas Hospital.
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 grain elevator workers face. When grain is handled at elevators, it creates dust that floats around inside the storage facility. The finer the grain dust particles, the greater its volatility. Typically, something — perhaps sparks from equipment or a cigarette — ignites the dust. That sends a pressure wave that detonates the rest of the floating dust in the facility.
The danger tends to be greater toward the end of the harvest season when the elevators are brimming with highly combustible grain dust. Saturday's 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 were 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.