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Travis Keil

  • Birth unknown
  • Death 29 Oct 2011 Atchison, Atchison County, Kansas, USA
  • Burial Unknown
  • Memorial ID 79718610

St Joseph News-Press 11-1-2011

ATCHISON, Kan. — The three workers missing after an explosion at Bartlett Grain Co. were located and recovered Monday morning, making the final death toll of the incident six.

Atchison City Manager Trey Cocking announced the recovery at a Monday morning press conference. Recovery efforts began at 6 a.m., with all three bodies safely recovered shortly after 10 a.m., he said.

The three men who were recovered Monday were identified as Travis Keil, 34, of Topeka, Kan.; Curtis Field , 21, of Atchison, Kan.; and Darrek Klahr, 43, of Wetmore, Kan. Mr. Keil and Mr. Klahr were Kansas state grain inspectors and Mr. Field was a Bartlett Grain employee.

Officials identified the three Bartlett employees confirmed dead Sunday as Chad Roberts, 20, and Ryan Federinko , 21, both of Atchison, Kan.; and John Burke , 24, of Denton, Kan.

Of the 12 workers on site during the explosion at 7 p.m. Saturday, four escaped injury. Two employees were transferred to the burn unit at University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, where one remains in critical condition and the other in serious condition.

"This is a horrible day for the families and it's an extremely sorrowful day for us," said Bob Knief, senior vice president of Bartlett Grain. "From the moment we knew of this explosion, we have done everything possible to get the best possible care for the injured and to safely recover those who were killed. And we have been directly and repeatedly in contact with the closest family members throughout the last 39-plus hours."

Recovery efforts were slowed Sunday afternoon and halted in the evening as there were concerns of the structural integrity of the elevator. The blast, which was felt as far away as Rushville, Mo., left the head house on top of the elevator hanging on the east edge of the facility. It also tore a hole in the middle of one of the columns.

The bodies of the missing workers were discovered in various locations throughout the building, Mr. Cocking said.

Mr. Knief said "it's way too early" to know the cause of the incident as families of the missing pushed him for answers.

"It was our family," one man said. "We want answers from the company."

Mr. Cocking said officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were on scene and were to conduct an investigation along with the Kansas State Fire Marshal to determine a cause of the explosion. Once the investigation is completed, the building will be turned over to Bartlett Grain for determination on how the company will proceed.

According to OSHA, grain dust is combustible and is the main source of fuel for explosions in grain elevators. The majority of deaths at grain elevators come from suffocation when workers are engulfed by stored grain. OSHA reported more than 600 explosions at U.S. grain handling facilities in the last 40 years, resulting in 250 fatalities and more than 1,000 injuries.

While officials did not speculate what may have caused the explosion, Joey Arnold, a loader for Bartlett Grain who escaped injury Saturday night, said they had been loading corn onto a rail car for about an hour before they saw the fireball.

Mr. Arnold said he was outside at the time and saw the fireball "shoot out of the back of the building." He was on site Monday morning to hear an update on his missing coworkers and friends.

"I feel pretty bad," he said of surviving the explosion. "It's a pretty bad ordeal."

Also on site were the families of the deceased. While they waited for news on the recovery of the bodies, a memorial with pictures of the deceased and their loved ones was made under the Bartlett Grain sign.

McKinley Keil, Mr. Keil's youngest daughter, made a sign for him that she plans to put on his grave that said "I love you, dad."

"I feel sad that he passed away," the 8-year-old said.

His two other children, 12-year-old Teagan and 15-year-old Justine, described him as extremely dedicated to his job because he wanted to provide for his family. They laughed Monday as they remembered an inside joke about Mr. Keil mistaking a possum for a cat, which is something they said they'll always remember about him.

"I can't describe my feelings because it's so hard," Teagan said.

"There's a hole. I'm only 15 and I don't have a dad," Justine added between tears.

The recovery efforts included nearly 100 personnel from Northeast Kansas, Atchison Police, Fire and Sheriff's Departments and local construction companies.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the families," Mr. Cocking said. "We're thankful this is completed and no one else was hurt."

Bartlett Grain Co., based out of Kansas City, operates a total of 18 grain elevators in the central United States with seven locations in Kansas and four in Missouri.

The Atchison facility where the blast occurred has not been cited for any violations in the last 10 years, according to OSHA data.

The company has been cited for two separate incidents, but neither involved explosions. In 2004, an employee died at a company site in Kansas City, Mo., when a lift he was operating fell backward. In 2007, a Bartlett Grain maintenance employee died in a fall from a work platform at the facility in St. Joseph

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