Worker presumed dead after silo collapse at NW Miami-Dade concrete plant

Cement company releases statement after collapse

Published On: Aug 18 2012 05:50:49 PM EDT
Silo 4
MEDLEY, Fla. -

A cement plant worker is presumed dead after a silo collapsed at the Pennsuco Plant in Medley Friday.

According to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, they received a call at 8:30 a.m. Friday that the roof of the silo had collapsed at the plant, located at 11955 Northwest 102nd Road.

The roof of the massive concrete silo suddenly gave way as a worker Pierre Mezidor was measuring the silo's cement content. Mezidor, 58, was not heard from again.

Miami-Dade search and rescue teams' efforts were somewhat hindered by inclement weather, and the search and rescue mission moved into a recovery operation at around 5 p.m. By Friday evening, two crews were able to enter and inspect the inside of the silo, Titan America, the company Mezior worked for, said. Titan American company officials are working with the Mine Safety and Health Administration on removing debris from the silo to continue the recovery effort.

"The size of the silo is approximately 200 feet high. It was 20 percent full, which estimates the man's fall along with the concrete debris at 140 feet," said MDFR Lt. Arnold Piedrahita.

At this point they don't know what caused the roof to collapse but rescue crews brought in a tall crane and then lowered two firemen down into the silo inside a bucket.

Mezidor's step-daughter said he had been working for Titan America for 19 years. She says he loved his job so much he would sometimes even go in on his days off. She said Titan employees came to their house and called them throughout the day with updates.

The inside of the silo is filled with loose cement powder and "rubble."

"In our opinion, sadly, if the fall isn't what killed him than the engulfment in the cement powder asphyxiated him," Piedrahita said.

Sky 10 was overhead as rescuers worked inside to find Mezidor. They spent about twenty minutes inside the silo and then were lifted out and it did not appear they had anyone with them.

They sent sophisticated cameras and listening devices into the silo - devices sensitive enough to hear someone tapping -  but heard no signs of life.

"We have cadaver dogs that detect only dead people and we have live rescue dogs," Piedrahita had said earlier in the day. "Hopefully, with those dogs we will be able to determine whether this is going to be a recovery operation or continue as a rescue operation."

Unfortunately, rescuers were unable to send in dogs because the material inside was too unstable.

This is not the first incident at Titan America. Back in 2008 a welder sparked a large fire on a rock crushing tower. The plant had to be evacuated but no one was hurt. Friday's accident is an even bigger challenge for firefighters but they say they have the resources to do the job no matter what.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue says this will be an extremely challenging job but they have the tools in place to do it.

At one point the rescue operation was suspended because of lightning in the area and that tall crane was just to dangerous to be used. There is no doubt this is a huge challenge for firefighters but they say they have the resources to do the job.

Rescuers say recovery could take days, particularly because since the silo is exposed, the rain will harden the cement powder around the victim - encasing him in hardened concrete.

On Friday afternoon, Titan America released a statement saying, "Officials at Titan America deeply regret the incident and emphasize that employee safety is their primary concern. Reasons for the structural collapse are unknown at this point but the company plans to conduct an exhaustive follow-up investigation."