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3 dead, 3 missing in grain elevator blast

Oct. 30, 2011 at 7:31 PM

ATCHISON, Kan., Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Three people were dead and three were missing after a grain elevator explosion in Kansas that also left two workers critically injured, officials said Sunday.

Three deaths were confirmed by Atchison City Manager Trey Cocking, while three more people were "unaccounted for" at the Bartlett Grain Co. grain elevator, the Atchison (Kan.) Daily Globe reported.

Two other individuals, Pat Maxwell and Clinton Ellerman, both Bartlett employees, were airlifted to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., with critical injuries.

Family members confirmed Bartlett employees Curtis Fields of Atchison and John Locke of Denton were two of the three killed in the blast. Travis Keil, a Kansas grain inspector, was one of the three still missing. The identities of the third fatality and other two missing had yet to be released.

The recovery effort was halted Sunday after officials decided the facility was unsafe. Cocking said the recovery processes would continue after Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials deem the facility safe.

"The scene is unstable, Cocking said. "It will have to be shored up before rescue crews can continue work."

The explosion at the Bartlett Grain facility happened about 7 p.m. Saturday as workers were loading grain into rail tankers, The Kansas City (Mo.) Star reported.

Initial reports from the company and fire officials suggested the explosion and fire were caused by grain dust suspended in the air that can become volatile given the right temperature, humidity and a spark of origin.

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