Officials confirmed two men who were cleaning the tank car had died in the blast at an Omaha rail yard. near Second and Hickory streets.
“I looked up, looked like a giant torch shooting in the air, then it just subsided really quickly,” witness Andy Tornow said.
Emergency crews were sent to the scene around 1:30 p.m. First responders found Dallas Foulk, 40, lying on the ground outside the tank car. Foulk was taken in extremely critical condition to CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
“The flames were 30, 40, 50 feet in the air,” Tornow said.
Tornow was working nearby when he felt the boom.
“I was just sitting here working on the fence, and I heard the percussion, felt it in my chest,” Tornow said.
“He’s just one of the good guys,” owner of Joby C’s Midtown Tavern Carlene Cheney said.
Cheney said she’d just seen Foulk the day before.
“He was just saying the other day, ‘I’ve got to find another job. This job is going to kill me,'” Cheney said.
Battalion Chief Tim McCaw said the explosion blew a ladder off the tank car, trapping a second worker inside.
It took authorities about six hours to pull the second victim from the car. He was identified Wednesday as Adrian LaPour, 44.
“One person was on top of the tank car when the explosion occurred, blew that person off the tank car on to the ground,” McCaw said. “It also blew the ladder they used to access the inside of the car out of the car, so there was still one person left inside the tank.”
Fire crews waited for toxic limits to subside before entering the tank car to retrieve the body of the second victim.
On Wednesday, officials confirmed a third employee was on the rail car with a harness at the time of the blast. This employee’s job was to communicate with the workers who were fatally injured. It’s unclear whether the third worker was hurt. His identity has yet to be released.
“I didn’t feel safe at all,” former employee Jacob Mack said.
Three men who worked for Nebraska Railcar Services told KETV NewsWatch 7 that it was tough work.
“It’s like being in an oven,” former employee Clifton Tadlock said. “You feel like Thanksgiving turkey.”
Former employee Jake Gilbert said the noise nearly made him deaf. He used to sandblast tank cars and now has to wear hearing aids.
“The sound will bounce from the heel of the car back to the other heel, and back and it’s just an enormous scream,” Gilbert said.