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Man feared dead after silo collapses in Bucks

At dusk Thursday, fire crews hauled spotlights toward the mangled remains of a collapsed steel silo at an industrial complex in Bristol Township.

At dusk Thursday, fire crews hauled spotlights toward the mangled remains of a collapsed steel silo at an industrial complex in Bristol Township.

They had already searched the wreckage for nearly 14 hours, hoping for any sign of Anthony Gabriele, a plant worker they believed was trapped beneath mountains of cement when the 125-foot silo collapsed overnight.

Given the scale of the debris and the temperatures, officials weren't optimistic about finding Gabriele alive. After a few hours, they stopped calling their effort a rescue attempt and started to call it a recovery.

Still, they planned to search.

"We're 100 percent into this," said Carl Pierce, chief of the township's Edgely Fire Company.

Gabriele's family members huddled near emergency responders throughout the day, said Kevin Dippolito, Bristol Township's fire marshal. They were "very upset, as you would expect," he said.

The facility at the site of the collapse is part of Silvi Group Cos. and is one of the largest cement import terminals in the country, according to its website. A company spokesperson did not respond to a call for comment.

David Jaslow, head of the Bucks County Technical Task Force, said Thursday morning that Gabriele's only shot at survival would have been to find an open space amid the mountainous rubble. But officials said that responders had searched the areas where he usually worked and were unable to find a void in the ruins.

Even if Gabriele had found a space, Jaslow said, the bitter cold made it unlikely he would survive.

Dippolito said the search could take several days, since Gabriele could be buried under a pile of debris as much as 40 feet high.

As many as 60 people joined the recovery effort, officials said, which included using cranes and vacuum trucks to dig through the huge piles of cement. Their initial priority was to locate a trailer adjacent to the silo or an electrical room attached to it.

Jaslow described the scene as "the most complicated technical rescue you could ever come across," due to the size of the wreckage and volume of material to dig through.

The silo was one of the three at the site. Officials did not know why it had collapsed.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said that it was investigating the incident and that there had been three prior OSHA inspections at the location.

One of two citations issued in 2012 after an inspection involved a safety complaint about access to an offshore barge at the site used for off-loading material. That citation was amended at an informal conference.

The other citation related to improperly placed loads on an aerial lift used as a crane that hoisted equipment from a dock.

Bristol Township Police Lt. John Godzieba said an officer on patrol discovered the silo collapse about 12:30 a.m. Thursday at the industrial park at 7900 N. Radcliffe St.

Sometime between then and 3:15 a.m., a 15-member rescue task force started searching the rubble, the lieutenant said. Officials did not explain the time gap between the discovery of the collapse and the start of the search. It was also unclear whether any other workers were at the facility at the time of the collapse.

Carl Pierce, chief of the Edgely Fire Company, said the search was "a very dangerous technical operation." Cold temperatures and high winds were expected to complicate the efforts, he said.

The site is the largest cement storage facility on the continent, with a capacity of 130,000 tons, according to the company's website. The location manages cement distribution at all hours.