Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Risky Grain Elevator Jobs"

The Associated Press

ATCHISON, Kan. — The men killed in a grain elevator explosion in Kansas included an Iraq war veteran, an avid collector of model John Deere tractors who hoped to farm and a soon-to-be husband looking forward to a wedding only three weeks away.

Four of the six were younger than 25, something unsurprising in a business that experts say involves a lot of physical labor and tends to be a young man's game.

The work there also tends to be dangerous. Farmers take their grain to elevators to be stored, and sometimes processed, before it is marketed or sold. Fine, highly combustible grain particles flow through the buildings as corn and other grain are moved. A spark from equipment or perhaps a cigarette can ignite the dust, sending a pressure wave that detonates the rest of the floating dust in the facility.

Relatives gathered Monday outside the Bartlett Grain Co. elevator in Atchison, about 50 miles northwest of Kansas City. They turned the company's sign outside the elevator into a memorial for the dead, with photos, flowers and a gray sweatshirt honoring one with his name written in marker and the question, "Why!"]

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