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Posted January 22, 2014 EST

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Crews Search For Cause Of Omaha Plant Explosion
United States (Nebraska) - The body of a second worker was recovered from an Omaha animal feed plant Tuesday after a fire and partial building collapse that killed two and injured at least 10 employees. "We redeployed at first light," Lincoln Fire Chief John Huff told the Los Angeles Times by telephone. Huff's team, Task Force 1, specializes in urban search and rescue, especially involving structures whose integrity has been compromised by fire.

The fire at the International Nutrition plant seriously damaged the building, fire officials have said. Key structural supports failed in the fire, and the second and third floors of the plant collapsed.

Huff said his group would take the morning hours to install shoring to support the walls.

"We need to make sure the structure is safe for the rescuers," he said.

After safety is assured, officials will seek to recover the second body inside the building, probably by nightfall Tuesday, Huff said. The first body was recovered Monday hours after the fire.

Officials are still searching for a cause of the blaze, and inspectors from the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration were in Nebraska on Tuesday. Investigators were conducting interviews with employees, employers and other potential witnesses, spokesman Scott Allen said.

"My deepest condolences go out to the families and communities that lost loved ones in the tragedy at International Nutrition Inc. in Omaha. It is heartbreaking when workers lose their lives while providing for their families," said Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, whose agency oversees OSHA.

"Staff from my department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration are on-site and will conduct a full and thorough investigation," he said. "There are many questions yet to be answered about what caused this disaster, but I am confident that the answers provided by federal, state and local officials can offer lessons that will help avoid tragedies like this one in the future."

OSHA records show the agency fined International Nutrition more than $13,000 after a 45-year-old worker was killed in 2002 when he fell into a moving mixer he was cleaning.

In 2012, the agency again cited the company for infractions, including failing to provide adequate flushing facilities for eyes and the body. The company paid $10,430 in penalties for those violations, OSHA said.

OSHA will examine whether there had been a blast before the fire. Initial reports said there had been an explosion, but fire officials later Monday backed away from that statement, saying it still needed to be investigated.

Thirty-eight people were in the building when the disaster struck about 10 a.m., according to fire officials. On Tuesday morning, at least four were reported in critical condition and two remained hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening.

In addition, one firefighter was treated and released Monday.

Written by Los Angeles Times


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