The first elevator to crumple was a granary holding about 268,000 bushels of wheat. Next in line was an elevator with 25,000 bushels of grain. The third grain bin was severely damaged, but remains standing. Precautions are currently being taken to prevent any possible injuries from that unstable elevator.
After it was determined there were no injuries and no obvious indications of criminal activity, Altus Police Department and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol assisted the Altus Fire Department by providing traffic control near the site. More APD officers were called for by 3:25 p.m. just to help with an increased number of vehicles trying to get into the area.
Assistant Altus Fire Chief Larry Wallace said it was a miracle no one was seriously hurt or killed. During the weekday, he estimated eight to 10 people would have been working near the elevators. It could have been worse if they were still in harvest mode.
Another bit of good news. A 30,000 gallon tank which normally holds anhydrous ammonia was knocked over in the accident, but it was empty.
Wallace said, "Grain presents a difficult problem because it's so fluid. You pull back and the rest of it just fills in." According to Grain Systems Incorporated (GSI), if a 165-pound person is trapped by grain for two and a half seconds, during operation, their body weight plus the grain equals 325 pounds. That weight forces them downward. After only five and three-quarters seconds, they have the equivalent of 800 pounds of weight. GSI said 160 people die in the U.S. by being entrapped by grain each year.
Altus Fire Department has a team that specializes in confined space rescue. Some communities are getting one of the newest types of safety and rescue equipment for grain elevators. It's manufactured by GSI, and called the RESQ Tube. It's an aluminum tube that can be fit down over a person who is entrapped by grain. A vacuum system and specialized procedures substantially raise the odds of freeing the victim. Some charitable groups and businesses have donated these RESQ Tubes to community fire departments for grain elevator accidents.