A fire and structural collapse at an animal feed processing plant killed some people and injured at least 10 workers, four critically, the Omaha fire chief said Monday.
Officials had said earlier that the fire at the International Nutrition plant may have been precipitated by an explosion. But at a televised afternoon news conference, interim fire chief Bernie Kanger said it was unclear whether there had been a blast.
“We are classifying this as an industrial accident that led to a structural fire,” he said.
Thirty-eight employees were believed to have been inside the building at the time, Kanger said. It was unknown if there were any visitors, he said.
“We have transitioned from a rescue mode to a recovery mode,” Kanger said. “There have been fatalities.”
He could not say how many people had been killed until teams examined the building, which was severely damaged and is considered dangerous after the blaze, he said.
The Omaha World-Herald reported that two people had been confirmed dead, according to the Douglas County attorney's office.
Kanger said none of the dead will be publicly identified until relatives are informed, and that process will begin when the bodies are recovered. No one is believed to be alive in the building.
At least 10 employees were injured in the disaster and four were listed in critical condition, Kanger said. Six had injuries that were not considered life-threatening, he said, and seven others refused treatment.
Kanger said the first alarm was called in from the plant at 10 a.m.
The cause of the accident will be investigated by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, he said.
In August 2002, a 45-year-old man was crushed to death by a mixing machine at the plant. OSHA fined the company $13,600 for five violations, and one other violation was discovered during an investigation of the accident, according to published reports. Separately, in 2012, OSHA fined the firm $10,430 to settle six other violations.
OSHA officials were not immediately available for comment.