'We are dead,' thought survivor of International Nutrition collapse - Omaha.com
Published Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 1:00 am / Updated at 12:05 pm
'We are dead,' thought survivor of International Nutrition collapse
Victims of industrial accident
Two fatalities
David Ball, 47
Keith Everett, 53

Injury update
St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center in Lincoln (transferred from Creighton)
Erik Ocampo, 20, fair condition
Manuel Orellana, 45, good condition

Creighton University Medical Center
John Broderick, 53, fair condition

Nebraska Medical Center
Tomas Balderas, 37, seven broken ribs and punctured kidney, fair condition
Kendrick Houston, 38, minor injuries, treated and released
50-year-old man, hypothermia, treated and released
30-year-old man, minor injuries and possible hypothermia, treated and released
36-year-old firefighter, minor injuries, treated and released

Bergan Mercy Medical Center
Walter Alecio, 36, treated and released
Two other patients treated and released

Walter Alecio heard metal grinding seconds before a tower of storage bins crashed through an animal-feed processing plant.

Alecio, the 36-year-old control room operator, was on the third floor of the International Nutrition plant when several outdoor storage bins — holding thousands of pounds of animal feed additives — toppled over Monday and crashed through the roof of the three-story building.

Alecio and two of his co-workers — Tomas Balderas and John Broderick — were pinned beneath the tower of bins.

The floor around them was collapsing. Debris and concrete blocked the exits.

“I thought, 'This is it — we are dead,' ” said Alecio, a father of three who has worked at the plant for 13 years. “There was no way to get out.”

Although he doesn't remember how, Alecio freed himself. He tugged at Balderas' hand, but the weight of the tower was too much.

“I knew they were in pain, but I had to leave them to get help,” Alecio said of his co-workers.

The crumbling floor shook violently as Alecio stumbled through debris and electrical wires, trying to reach a window no bigger than a car tire.

Dust and darkness engulfed him. He passed in and out of consciousness as he held his breath to prevent limestone dust from entering his lungs.

He managed to move enough debris to squeeze through the window.

A flooded staircase awaited him on the other side. Fire sprinklers had unloaded massive amounts of water in the stairwell, Alecio said.

On the way down, he encountered a couple of men running into the building to help the trapped and injured. Alecio told them it wasn't safe, so they turned back and left the rescue efforts to Omaha firefighters.

Alecio gasped for breath when he burst through the first-floor exit.

He quickly told firefighters where to place their ladder to rescue Balderas and Broderick.

Alecio then saw his good friend, Manuel Orellana, whose hands were burned badly. Orellana had been working on the plant's first floor.

Alecio said Orellana hopes to be released from the hospital in time for his wedding Saturday. He said Orellana jokes that he will sign his marriage license with his toes if he still isn't able to write with his hand.

Balderas, 37, was being treated at the Nebraska Medical Center for seven broken ribs and a punctured kidney, Alecio said.

Broderick, 53, broke his shoulder, had bruised ribs, a collapsed lung and hypothermia, said his ex-wife, Carisa Broderick. He is being treated at Creighton University Medical Center.

Doctors determined that Alecio's lungs were saturated with dust. He was released from Bergan Mercy Medical Center on Tuesday evening — making it home on his daughter's 10th birthday. Alecio said it could take weeks for his lungs to clear.

His wife, Erica, and daughters — ages 2, 10, and 12 — watched TV with him on the couch and brought him food and water.

“I am still very sore, but I am grateful to be alive,” Alecio said.

He reflected on co-workers David Ball, 47, and Keith Everett, 53, who died in the accident.
Alecio said he shared a passion for music with Ball, who worked in maintenance. Ball told Alecio that his favorite group was Christian rock band Building 429.

Everett, a janitor, was a jokester who always made sure there was a fresh pot of coffee brewing, Alecio said. Everett and Alecio frequently chatted about sports, fishing and hunting in the break room.

Former Omaha Police Chief Thomas Warren, now head of the Urban League of Nebraska, graduated with Everett from the former Omaha Technical High School in 1979.

Warren recalled his former classmate as an “exceptional football player” who played defensive end for Tech and was voted prom king.

World-Herald staff writer Maggie O'Brien contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: Alissa Skelton

alissa.skelton@owh.com    |   402-444-1066    |  

Alissa is a breaking news and general assignment reporter for Omaha.com.

Interstate construction to cause lane shifts, closings in Omaha area
Man, 21, shot in ankle while walking near 30th, W Streets
Teenager arrested after woman's purse is snatched outside Omaha store
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
17 senators in Nebraska Legislature hit their (term) limits
Slaying of woman in Ralston apartment likely over drugs, police say
Keystone XL pipeline backers blast ‘political expediency’ as foes hail ruling to delay decision
Dems criticize governor hopeful Beau McCoy's ad in which he strikes a Barack Obama doll
Omahan charged in fatal shooting in Benson neighborhood
Friday's attendance dips at Millard West after bathroom threat
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
High court denies death row appeal of cult leader convicted of murder
Haze in area comes from Kansas, Oklahoma
Man taken into custody in domestic dispute
Omaha judge reprimanded for intervening in peer attorney's DUI case
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Police seek public's help in finding an armed man
Saturday forecast opens window for gardening; Easter egg hunts look iffy on Sunday
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
A voice of experience: Ex-gang member helps lead fight against Omaha violence
Church is pressing its case for old Temple Israel site
OPPD board holding public forum, open house May 7
< >
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »