MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A young woman is dead after falling several floors inside an abandoned grain elevator.

Minneapolis fire officials say the woman and two of her friends were climbing inside the elevator, just before 10 p.m. Saturday.

They say the victim fell 40 feet into a steel bin inside.

“You heard when she fell. When she screamed, yeah,” Patrick Smith said.

Smith lives right across the street from the abandoned Bunge elevator. Over the years, he’s seen people climb over the fence to get inside the building. And when he heard screams Saturday night, he feared the worst.

“You can’t even see at night in there. You can barely see in the daytime in there,” Smith said.

Fire officials say the woman and two friends had climbed near the top of the 140-foot elevator. They say she then fell off a ladder, through a wooden floor and then fell another three floors into a steel bin. Emergency responders had to climb about 10 stories, and the only way to get to her was to drop down from the top of the steel enclosure she fell in.

“That was the only way. They thought about going through the sidewall of the vat, it’s steel. So we would have either had to torch through it or cut through it with metal-cutting saws,” Deputy Fire Chief Don Leedham said.

They used technical rope to drop inside and a doctor from Hennepin County Medical Center was on scene to help. It took about two hours to get her out. Unfortunately, she later died as a result of her injuries.

A similar accident in 2006 claimed the life of 20-year-old University of Minnesota student Germaine Vigaent. She fell about 100 feet.

Leedham believes money is the main reason why the elevator is still standing. Until it’s taken down, he’s warning people to stay out.

“I’m sure it’s a cost factor and it’s in the process of being up for sale,” Leedham said. “They are vacant for a reason. There are holes on every floor potentially. There are collapsed areas in there. There are things that can fall on you.”

There have been problems at the abandoned Fruen/Con Agra elevator in Minneapolis as well. That building is also dilapidated with broken windows and graffiti.

Just last summer, a man was injured while exploring inside that elevator. And there was a fatality there, also in 2006.

Project for Pride and Living, which owns the property where Saturday’s incident took place, released a statement Sunday night.

“We at PPL are saddened to learn of the tragic accident at the Bunge site in Minneapolis yesterday. Keeping our properties safe for the community is a top priority at PPL. We’ve worked diligently to secure this undeveloped site over the years. PPL secured the site again after last night’s tragedy and will continue to work closely with safety officials from the City of Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota, as well as neighborhood leadership to ensure that the site stays secured. In addition, we will continue to work with the City of Minneapolis on the next phase of the site, whether redevelopment or demolition,” Vice President Julie Brekke said in a statement.

John Lauritsen

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