Richard Thomas tells us, "All i felt was heat, hitting me like when you open an oven door, I just felt heat. I didn't know what was happening."
Five people were in the ellis grain elevator when it exploded. Only two made it out alive. "I kept hollering for them and they didn't holler back," Thomas says. Surrounded by fire and debris, Thomas tried to stand up, but couldn't move. His body was broken and his skin was burned, his pelvis crushed in five places. Trapped in the elevator, all Thomas could do was pray.
After an excruciating wait, a firefighter eventually was able to make his way to Thomas, although he couldn't get Thomas down on his own, "He was my hero, he got to me and he comforted and talked to me, and I laid there and talked until they figured out a way to get me out of the elevator."
Five hours and two ladder trucks later, crews discovered the only way to rescue Thomas was to use this crane and basket. Thomas spent almost a month in the hospital recovering.
Although time has passed, it's unlikely Thomas will ever forget January 15th 1988 or the friends he lost that day, "It's no easier than it was that day because I still think about them, I cared about them."
Joseph Yates also survived the explosion, while Gary Gross, John Hughes, and Thomas Kortz lost their lives. I0t was later ruled that a flash fire ignited by an overhead bearing created a domino effect of explosions.