Forklift operator Kendrick Houston was walking back to his forklift on the International Nutrition plant's main floor after a morning break when the floor began to tremble.
"There was this real loud crackling sound, and the lights went off," Houston said. "I saw a spark, and there was a big ball of flame coming from the southwest corner of the building."
He and a nearby co-worker named Chuck hit the ground as debris rained down amid billowing smoke and dust. It seemed like the flames flashed overhead.
"It happened so quick," said Houston, 38. "Then we just got up and ran out."
He said he sprinted through a garage door that he believed was blown open by the accident. He estimated the door was just 5 feet away from him.
He said Chuck ran out with him, and another co-worker who Houston believed had been closer to the accident followed behind, apparently suffering from burns.
Once safe outside, Houston quickly decided he needed to go back into the plant. He needed to try to help co-workers who were in the corner where the flames came from.
"I ran back in," Houston said. "I yelled their names, but they didn't answer."
He penetrated as far as the heat and smoke would allow him, then retreated outside again.
"It was disarray," Houston said. "All the lights were out. It was pitch black. ... I think it was still burning in that corner."
The other workers Houston had been seeking eventually came out through a different exit. That was a relief, Houston said at the Nebraska Medical Center, where he was being treated for smoke inhalation.
"But I've still got a co-worker in there right now that they say is trapped," Houston said. "We're doing a lot of praying for him right now."
Larry McElhinney, 61,of Danville, Iowa, was at International Nutrition to make a delivery Monday. His semitrailer was backed up to the building. Workers were in the process of unloading McElhinney's trailer when the commotion started. Dust fell from above and McElhinney saw men running out of the building. "I didn't hear anything," he said. "When I saw all of the dust flying and the workers running, I knew something was wrong." McElhinney jumped out of his truck and followed the workers away from the building. He was uninjured and has spent the rest of the day waiting to get his truck back from fire marshals who are inspecting it.