With concrete slabs swaying above, rescue workers on Tuesday tore through steel, removed broken concrete and dodged debris as they moved slowly toward the remains of a worker inside the heavily damaged International Nutrition plant.
For seven hours, they carefully walked across concrete slabs supported by temporary columns made of lumber to reach the body, pinned underneath collapsed floors.
Crews lifted the body of David Ball, 47, out of the plant at 3:45 p.m.
It is still unknown why the structure collapsed Monday and a fire raged inside the plant at 7706 I Plaza.
The building looked as if it had been ravaged by an earthquake, said Battalion Chief Brad Thavenet of the Lincoln-based Nebraska Task Force 1. Thavenet is one of 25 members of the search and rescue team.
The roof and third floor of the building partially collapsed onto the second floor, where Ball and Keith Everett, 53, were found dead in different areas, Thavenet said.
Everett's body was recovered Monday night before crews called off the search for Ball because of hazardous building and weather conditions.
Ball's body was more difficult to reach because he was near the center of the building, Thavenet said.
He speculated that the floors collapsed simultaneously, leaving little time for plant workers to escape.
“Those who escaped were lucky,” Thavenet said. “People on the outside perimeter were more likely to get out.”
Once Ball's body was removed, city officials barred entry to the structure, deeming it unsafe. The owner is providing 24-hour security to prevent people from entering.
Not even Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors were allowed inside, said OSHA spokesman Scott Allen.
Inspectors will try to establish a timeline for the accident and determine the cause by surveying the scene and interviewing the plant's owners, employees and any witnesses.
Allen said the agency has up to six months to complete its investigation. If there were violations inside the plant, he said, OSHA will issue citations.
He said it may take that long to investigate “because of the complexity of the accident.”
Four plant workers remained hospitalized Tuesday night in Omaha and Lincoln. Six other workers had been treated and released.
Steven J. Silver, president of International Nutrition, said in a statement: “We would like to express our sympathies and condolences to the families of our employees who lost their lives yesterday. We also offer our thoughts and prayers for a swift recovery to those injured and affected by the accident.”
The search and rescue team began stabilizing the structure and shoring up the building about 9 a.m. Tuesday.
An on-site structural engineer helped crews identify which areas were safe to walk on and which were not, Thavenet said.
Entering the building was a dangerous undertaking, but Thavenet said that having the engineer identify the highest-risk areas made the rescue crew's job easier.
Along the way, the crew had to maneuver around metal shelving, forklifts and other debris.
Lumber was bound together and placed under unstable concrete areas to provide temporary columns. The columns stabilized areas so rescue crews could reach Ball.
Production line worker Erik Ocampo, 20, rested comfortably at the burn unit of a Lincoln hospital. He remained in stable condition Tuesday.
Ocampo told his family that he heard a rumble and his co-workers started shouting to run.
He was struck by something, apparently falling debris, and felt like his entire body was on fire. The plant interior turned so dark that he couldn't see any of the machines or other people.
“He was hearing a lot of voices screaming,” said his wife, Alison Ocampo, “a lot of people saying, 'Get out! Get out!”
He's not sure how he found his way out, she said.
His family declined to discuss the extent of his injuries but said he's alert, able to eat and talk.
“Thank God he's alive,” said Miriam Ocampo, his mother. “That's the most important thing now.”
Their relief was tempered by the lives lost and the other workers who suffered injuries, she said. They extended their thoughts and prayers to those families.
John Broderick, a shift supervisor at the plant, suffered from hypothermia and a collapsed lung. He was having trouble breathing, said his ex-wife, Carisa Broderick.
His heartbeat has been erratic, she said, so doctors on Tuesday were looking into the possibility that his heart was bruised.
Broderick, buried beneath rubble, also is suffering from a broken shoulder blade and bruises to every rib on his left side.
“It's been extremely hard,” Carisa Broderick said. “Our kids are very scared they are going to lose their dad.”
World-Herald staff writers Joe Duggan, Derek Noehren, Maggie O'Brien and Barbara Soderlin contributed to this report.