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No criminal charges in Atchison grain elevator explosion that killed six

U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said he found that “there is not sufficient evidence to support criminal charges against the owner” of the elevator, Kansas City-based Bartlett Grain Co. An OSHA investigation of the 2011 explosion continues, and the company still faces a proposed $406,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said he found that “there is not sufficient evidence to support criminal charges against the owner” of the elevator, Kansas City-based Bartlett Grain Co. An OSHA investigation of the 2011 explosion continues, and the company still faces a proposed $406,000 fine. kmyers@kcstar.com

Federal prosecutors said Thursday they will file no criminal charges against Kansas City-based Bartlett Grain Co. in connection with the October 2011 explosion at its Atchison, Kan., grain elevator that took six lives.

U.S. Attorney Tom Beall in Topeka said in a statement that he had closed his inquiry after finding “there is not sufficient evidence to support criminal charges against the owner.” He said the decision was based on information known to his office.

Beall’s statement said his decision does not alter the pending enforcement actions of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA officials asked for the criminal investigation a year after the blast.

At the time of the agency’s referral to prosecutors, Bartlett said that there was “no legitimate basis” for it and that the company looked forward “to proving that the OSHA allegations are untrue and unfounded.”

Federal safety inspectors had accused Bartlett Grain of knowingly ignoring safety requirements that could have prevented the deaths. Bartlett had strongly denied the accusations and questioned the government’s findings.

Families of the six men, four employees and two grain inspectors, who were killed in the explosion had become angry at the system that was supposed to prevent such deaths as well as the lack of any cause or blame established five years after the fact.

Five years later, families of blast victims feel left in the dark as the Bartlett Grain elevator explosion case in Atchison, Kan., faces Saturday deadline.

There also were complaints that Beall’s predecessor, Barry Grissom, had acted too slowly in pursuing the criminal investigation.

A five-month investigation by OSHA led to $406,000 in proposed fines for what it called serious and willful violations of federal safety standards. No fines have been paid.

Mark Davis: 816-234-4372, @mdkcstar

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