Bunge Tower fall claims second Univ. of Minnesota student life

A University of Minnesota student who died after a fall from inside the abandoned Bunge Tower grain elevator in the Como neighborhood of Minneapolis has been identified as 20-year-old Emily Roland of Cottage Grove, Minn., the second U student to die after an elevator exploration.

The Hennepin County medical examiner's office said she died of multiple injuries and classified it as accidental. Roland was a sophomore liberal arts student at the University of Minnesota.

A Minneapolis Fire Department technical crew pulled her out of the grain elevator around 10:30 p.m. Saturday. This is the same grain elevator where another 20-year-old University of Minnesota student died after a 10-story fall in 2006.

What happened

There were 3 people exploring Saturday night when Roland somehow fell off a ladder on the 10th floor, broke through a wood floor and plummeted into a 30-foot steel bin, Minneapolis Fire Deputy Chief Todd White confirmed.

"They are very dangerous, and no matter what property owners or the city does to solidify the vacant building and close it up, there are ways in." White said. "There are holes in floors, windows can fall out, and there's no safe way they can completely secure this building."

A doctor from the Hennepin County Medical Center climbed down the elevator to secure her, and as rain poured outside complicating the rescue, it took nearly 2 hours to bring the woman down the 10-story building. Roland was taken to HCMC and officials said she died from serious injuries suffered in the fall.

'It's just hard to keep it secure'

The property owner, Project for Pride in Living, said following this accident, work is being done to reassess security and the city will be keeping a closer eye on it, too.

Crews and safety inspectors returned to the grain elevator on Monday to try and secure all the doors and windows so no one else gets hurt, though Minneapolis Fire crews said on Sunday it's difficult to do.

"We're working with the city, the fire department, and police department to evaluate our security measures," PPL CEO Paul Williams said.

Williams' non-profit builds affordable housing, and owns the 18-story structure along with the surrounding property in the neighborhood.

"We do walk around of the entire site, looking for openings, patching things up on a constant basis," he said.

Williams said ever since his group bought the land in 2006 from Bunge North America, a grain company, trespassing has become a major issue, people constantly breaking in, climbing around, skateboarding, adding graffiti and gazing at the urban skyline. Just last year, records show Minneapolis city inspectors determined it unsafe to be inside, but otherwise, the building is structurally sound and the city says the owners have always made the required repairs.

Ward 2 councilman Cam Gordon is working with the owner to possibly remove the staircases leading to the upper levels, wants more fencing, and clearer signage.

"What I saw today seems to leave room for improvement in terms of security," he said. "We've had no trespassing signs up, we had six of them up recently, five of them were torn down."

The grain elevator is surrounded by residential apartments, a railroad track, and it's just minutes from the U campus.

"Short of having constant security there, it's just hard to keep it secure," Williams said.

Project for Pride in Living statement

"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."

Death in 2006

This isn't the first death in this grain elevator. In 2006, 20-year-old Germain Vigeant, a U of M student, died after a 10-story fall while climbing the tower with a friend without a flashlight.

Glenwood Avenue 50-foot fall

Last August, a man believed to be taking part in an urban exploration fell about 50 feet inside the Glenwood Avenue silo, also known as the old Fruen Mill in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood.

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