Take a Look Back at the 1998 DeBruce Grain Elevator Explosion

DeBruce was the largest grain elevators in the world at the time.

Kristen Kazarian, Managing Editor

February 27, 2024

In the summer of 1998 at 9:18 a.m. in Wichita, KS, tragedy struck the DeBruce Grain elevator, which, at the time, was the largest grain elevator in the world. Seven workers were killed and four of them, from a staffing agency, were in their 20s. Ten other workers were injured.

A report was submitted by the Grain Elevator Explosion Investigation Team (GEEIT) and explained the investigation and cause of the explosion that killed 7 and injured 10 employees. The lengthy report of this disaster is 14 chapters long so we will keep it short.

One of the rescue members stated that in the morning of June 8, 1998, a grain dust explosion caused extensive damage to one of the largest grain elevators in the world, DeBruce. Within 27 minutes of the explosion, at 9:45 a.m., a request for all on-duty rescue team members was sent out. The rescuer arrived at the scene at 10:10.

DeBruce Grain elevator was located approximately 4 miles southwest of Wichita. Its storage capacity was 20.7 million bushels. Were the elevator to store wheat exclusively, it could have supplied the wheat for all the bread consumed in the United States for nearly six weeks, the report stated.

The elevator complex then consisted of 246 circular grain silos that were 30 ft. in diameter and 120 ft. in height, arranged in a linear array of 3 silos abreast. The 164 star-shaped spaces between the circular silos were also used for grain storage and are known as interstice silos. There were therefore a total of 310 grain storage silos in the elevator.

In this video, you will hear what happened to cause this dust explosion at the grain elevator, along with a short history of dust explosions and how they came about. Did you know the use of equipment for processing of grain started with water-powered mills in Asia Minor?

Today, the grain elevator company is owned by Viterra, which bought DeBruce in 2010.

About the Author(s)

Kristen Kazarian

Managing Editor

Kristen Kazarian has been a writer and editor for more than three decades. She has worked at several consumer magazines and B2B publications in the fields of food and beverage, packaging, processing, women's interest, local news, health and nutrition, fashion and beauty, automotive, and computers.

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