Minutes to live: rescuers discuss grain bin dangers

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Working at a grain elevator is a dangerous job, and inside the bins, it can be a deathtrap. Sedgwick County firefighters know this first-hand.  

"It's not designed for people to be in it," Captain Don Boone said.

Boone says firefighters used special equipment during their three-hour long search to find the two men who were trapped inside a grain bin at Gavilon Grain in Sedgwick County. Rescuers had to attach themselves to harnesses, set up lights in the dark bins and use special blocks to build platforms, which protect them from slipping into the deadly grain.

Boone says these recoveries are always a challenge for firefighters who are used to saving lives.

"If it's a total engulfment, you have minutes to live," he said. "The option of saving them sometimes is not there. So, that's the hardest piece of this to deal with is you kind of feel like you lost, but really you had no control over it."

There's almost no chance of survival, which is why the Department of Labor has an entire site dedicated to preventing grain elevator accidents. The agency's spokesman says he's confident if all federal regulations were being followed at Gavilon, Tuesday's double fatality never would've happened.

"It's inherently dangerous to go inside a grain bin. It's imperative that these companies follow all OSHA standards and regulations to ensure the safety of their workers," OSHA spokesman, Scott Allen said.

Gavilon says it's working with OSHA to determine what caused the accident.

OSHA says the last time the Gavilon Grain facility was inspected was in 2012. It was forced to pay $6,000 for three safety violations. Those citations were for failing to place safety guards on floors and machines.

OSHA investigators have six months to complete their investigation.

The names of the victims have not been released.

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