Worker missing after silo roof collapse
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MEDLEY, Fla. (WSVN) -- A worker is missing after the roof of a silo filled with concrete mix collapsed Friday morning.
A complicated rescue effort is currently underway to find and hopefully rescue the man alive. Over 50 firefighters responded after the man fell into the silo filled with raw cement powder at 8:30 in the morning. After hours of assessing the situation, crews were lowered into the silo by a crane sometime after 1 p.m. with heat-sensing equipment and a special camera to burrow through the rubble in order to look for signs of life.
About seven hours into the rescue effort, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lieutenant Arnold Pedrahita said, "They haven't been able to have any contact with the missing man or any signs of life at this time. We do fear the worst at this time."
But, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Perry said, though the situation looked grim, rescuers are not about to give up. "We always treat all rescues as they're alive, until prooven otherwise," he said.
The threat of rainy weather forced the suspension of the search for an hour, at around 3:35 p.m. Crews re-entered the silo, but about an hour later had to abort again due to the weather. Two rescuers wearing masks were lowered inside the silo in a basket. As many as five men were on top of the structure to assist in the search.
According to investigators, the man could have fallen as much 140 feet after the silo's roof somehow crumbled away under his feet. The worker was supposedly trying to measure how much product was inside the silo owned by Titan America when the roof collapsed.
Pedrahita said the sound of the collapse was unmistakable to those working on the ground. "Safety crews on the ground did hear the collapse," he said. "They immediately responded to the top of the silo. They screamed out his name. They had no sign of life and no sign of communication. The immediately called 911."
Titan America released this statement regarding the incident: "The roof collapsed on one of our cement silos at our Pennsuco plant in Medley, Fla. One of our employees is missing. Miami-Dade search and rescues crews are on the scene. Our first concern is always for our employees and their families. Once the situation is stabilized, we'll conduct an exhaustive investigation to determine what happened."
Rescue crews had to approach their entry into the structure with caution. "It's a very sensitive situation right now," said Pedrahita. "We can't put firefighters on an unsafe structure."
Crews had to shut down a generator that powered the structure, which took over a half hour to completely turn off. A structural specialist had to be called in to analyze how the structure fell and which way could be the safest way for crews to get inside. He arrived on the scene not long before noon.
Multiple search teams have responded with K-9s at the ready. They also have infrared and sonic equipment to assist in the search. A hazmat team is also on the scene as the dry concrete mix inside the silo is flammable. Crews on scene had believed the safest way to get rescuers inside would be to lower them down via a helicopter but that stirred up a think cloud of powder and the helicopter had to abort.
Crews are hoping there might be a void space inside the collapse, between the top layer and bottom of the structure. It could be key in allowing crews to maneuver into the ruin and saving the worker's life.
An air rescue helicopter is on the way to look inside and determine how to get rescuers inside. In the meantime, crews have examined footage shot overhead by 7 Skyforce HD.
This is not the first time this site has needed the attention of fire rescue crews. On April 22, 2008, a fire at that location needed 100 firefighters to put it out. No one was severely injured in that case. Also, over 10 years ago, fire crews had to dig out a worker who fell into the cement mix.
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