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Family Identifies Victim In Fatal Grain Elevator Fall

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Family members have identified the woman who fell to her death at an abandoned Minneapolis grain elevator over the weekend.

The victim was 20-year-old Emily Roland, of Cottage Grove. She was a student at the University of Minnesota.

Officials said that she and two of her friends were climbing inside the Bunge elevator located along 13th Avenue Southeast just before 10 p.m. Saturday.

While it's unclear why the three were in the grain elevator, neighbors said it's common for students to trespass in the area and climb the building.

"Sometimes they go up there and they throw beer bottles at night time," said Ikram Mohamed, who lives in the area.

Fire crews said that Roland and her friends had climbed near the top of the 140-foot elevator. They said 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.

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. She later died as a result of her injuries.

On Monday, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner said she died of multiple blunt force injuries.

Last summer, a man was injured while exploring inside that elevator, and a similar accident in 2006 claimed the life of 20-year-old University of Minnesota student Germaine Vigaent.

Deputy Fire Chief Don Leedham said he believes money is the main reason why the elevator is still standing. Until it's taken down, he's warning people to stay out.

"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," he said.

Project for Pride and Living owns the property where Saturday's incident took place, as well as the surrounding apartment buildings.

The group, a nonprofit that builds affordable housing, purchased the grain elevator in 2006, with hopes of selling the property to a private developer for $1.4 million.

Then the recession hit.

Now, there's no serious interest in the property, and it would cost half a million dollars to demolish the grain elevator.

PPL sent crews to the building on Monday to secure the structure, fixing fences and boarding up the entry points.

Still, authorities say those fixes won't likely stop those bent on getting inside.

Julie Brekke, the vice president of PPL, said the nonprofit is working with the city on the next phase of the site, "whether redevelopment or demolition."

According to Kok Funeral Home, Roland's funeral will be held on Thursday in Woodbury.

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