Council Bluffs, IA Grain Elevator Explosion, Apr 1982

Council Bluffs, IA Grain Explosion 1982 2.jpg Council Bluffs, IA Grain Explosion 1982.jpg


Council Bluffs, Iowa (AP) -- There was little hope Wednesday for at least five men believed to be buried under tons of smouldering corn and soybeans following an explosion and fire that shattered a grain elevator here.
Firefighters expected to spend several days putting out the flames.
A spokesman for Agri-Industries of Des Moines, the firm that owns the elevator, said four elevator superintendents and one part-time employee are missing.
Maurice Van Nostrand identified the superintendents as KEITH STRAIT, 27, of Van Meter, Iowa; ROD KELLY, 37, of Missouri Valley, Iowa; FRANK DRIVER, 49, of Plattsmouth, Neb., and ROGER KINNEY, 31, of Council Bluffs.
The part-time employee was identified as JOHN MITCHELL, Van Nostrand said officials had no age or hometown for MITCHELL. Another 22 people were hospitalized.
Shortly after firefighters arrived, a young woman ran into the arms of Jerry Brunow, an elevator employee. Brunow, tears streaming down his face, spoke quietly to her. She screamed and looked toward the burning building.
Later, crouched beside the wheel of a railroad grain car, her eyes still riveted on the burning building, the woman continued to sob. Brunow declined to be interviewed, saying, "This woman's husband is still in there and we just don't feel like talking."
The explosion, which officials believe was triggered when a spark ignited grain dust during a loading operation, thundered through the structure about 2:15 p.m. Council Bluffs Fire Chief Norman Elgan said the first fire unit dispatched to the scene immediately called a second alarm.
"We knew right away we had a goer," Elgan said.
"The whole thing was just a mass of flames."
Elgan said a mutual aid alarm went out quickly, and fire units from Lewis Township, Neola, Underwood, Carter Lake, Treynor, McClelland, Crescent and Omaha, Neb., assisted in fighting the blaze. Fanned by gusty winds, flames shot 100 to 200 feet in the air and smoke could be seen for 20 miles.
The powerful explosion hurled concrete and burning chunks of wood up to a mile away, igniting numerous grass fires in the area. Six-inch thick concrete, reinforced with steel rods, was shattered like an egg shell. Large cracks were visible near the tops of the seven concrete silos.
More than a dozen cars and a semitrailer truck near the elevator were damaged or destroyed. One car had been crushed under a huge chunk of wood. Another was destroyed by fire. Jagged pieces of corrugated metal littered the site.

Oelwein Daily Register Iowa 1982-04-21