West Explosion | KERA News

West Explosion

State Farm / Flickr.com

4:46: Chris Connealy , Texas State Fire Marshal, says after one of the most intense explosion investigations ever undertaken by the ATF, the cause of the fire and explosion in West on April 17,  is officially undetermined, and the investigation continues. 

Officials are still looking at possible causes that could have started the fire and  the explosion, including the 120 volt plant, a nearby golf cart, and the possibility the blast might have been caused intentionally. The investigation is being treated as a criminal investigation, and again, it is ongoing. 

Joe Berti

McLennan County officials are providing additional details about the arrest of a volunteer EMS worker from West who has been  charged with possessing a destructive device.

Heidi White, an employee at the McLennan County Jail, says

thirty-one year old Bryce Reed was arrested by federal ATF officers Thursday following a complaint from the U.S. Marshals Service.

Reed was held at the county jail until this morning then released to ATF.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw today directed the Texas Rangers to join McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara in launching a criminal investigation into the fertilizer plant explosion that occurred in West, Texas, on April 17. Media are reporting a paramedic has been arrested on a charge of possessing a destructive device but officials aren't commenting on whether the arrest is related to the West explosion.

In one crime report reviewed by Reuters, a company official told police that thieves repeatedly tampered with tanks to steal anhydrous ammonia that could be used to make methamphetamine.

Joe Berti

State emergency officials say the West Fertilizer plant where an explosion killed 14 people was under no obligation to have an evacuation plan. A Homeland Security Hearing also revealed that other North Texas Counties store ammonium nitrate, a substance that was kept at the blast site.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told lawmakers there are more than 1,000 facilities statewide that store it in some capacity

Stella M. Chávez / KERA News

Second graders at Seguin Elementary School in Grand Prairie have a message for their peers in West ISD.

“We’re with you” and “You’re in our prayers.”

The messages were written on "gingerbread people" that the children made out of butcher paper this week. Moms laid down on the paper as their children traced them. They worked together to decorate the imaginary figures with hearts and smiles and then wrote words of encouragement.

Jerry Larson / Waco Tribune Herald, Pool

Thousands in Waco yesterday mourned the first responders who perished in last week’s fire and explosion in the town of West.  Family, friends and supporters were quietly moved by the speakers, but loudly embraced President Obama, there with the First Lady.  

Jerry Larson / Waco Tribune-Herald

Our final post, 4:51 p.m.: Taps is played and folded U.S. flags are delivered to family members of the deceased.

In the background sit flag-draped coffins and photos of those lost in the explosion. Amazing Grace is played on bag pipes, and the memorial service comes near an end with a benediction given by Bishop Joe S. Vasquez.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

As many as 10,000 people have crowded into the Ferrell Center at Baylor University in Waco for a memorial service honoring the first responders and residents of West, Texas, who died last week when the town's fertilizer plant exploded.

Lauren Silverman

Only a railroad separated West’s intermediate school from the fertilizer plant that exploded last week. The blast destroyed that school -- and left three out of four West ISD campuses unusable. But many West students are going to finish the school year, just not in West. 

Lauren Silverman

Just four days after a fertilizer plant explosion took 14 of their loved ones, the people of West, Texas, found some solace Sunday.  The churchgoers flocked to two very different sanctuaries -- one untouched by the explosion, the other in a hay field.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

Reporter Courtney Collins expected just another grueling disaster scene when she left Dallas before dawn Thursday. But that's not what she found. Here's a reporter's view of West, and the people who fuel its beating heart.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

Update, Saturday, 11:15 a.m.: Thinking about taking a carload or truckload of supplies to help out the people of West? Don't. The little town is overwhelmed with donations of goods and clothing. Folks sorting through all the donations tell KERA's BJ Austin they've run out of room. The Dallas Morning News reports that cash is the most important thing needed right now.  There are plenty of other ways you can help, too. Here are a few:

BJ Austin / KERA News

Officials in West, Texas confirm that Wednesday's fertilizer plant explosion killed at least 14 people, injured 200 and damaged about 50 homes.  The owner of West Fertilizer, Donald Adair issued a statement saying, "My heart is broken with grief for the tragic losses to so many families in our community." 

Lowell Brown / Waco Tribune

The school board president of West Independent School District  says about half the district’s 1,463 students will return to school Monday, but at a different school, in a different district. That’s because three of West ISD’s four schools suffered damage from Wednesday’s explosion. 

BJ Austin / KERA News

During a tour of West today, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn confirmed that ammonium nitrate was found at the site of the explosion.  It’s a fertilizer component also used to make bombs.

The information comes as federal and state agencies arrive in West to investigate the cause of the tragedy.

  Floyd Wolf, like many of his neighbors, was surprised to learn the explosion that tore apart their community may have come from West Fertilizer.  After all, the company had been there for decades, sitting near their school and homes.

BJ Austin / KERA News

Update: 1:21 p.m..: Sen. John Cornyn said at a press conference that 60 people are still unaccounted for in the town of West.

"There are a number of confirmed dead but a number who are unaccounted for," he said.

Some headlines circulating now are skipping context, KERA's BJ Austin tells us.  Cornyn's announcement came with the cautionary point that many could be staying with friends and family, and they aren't presumed dead. Authorities still haven't scoured all the hospital lists for names, according to Cornyn.

Joe Berti

Joe Berti has had an unbelievable week. And one in which he’s counting his blessings that he's alive.

On Monday, Berti finished running the Boston Marathon minutes before the bombs went off. His wife, Amy, was standing near the finish line, yards from the first blast. Two days later, as he drove from Dallas to Austin, he saw – and photographed – the explosion in the Central Texas town of West.

Kindness In #WestTexas: A Look At Relief On Instagram

Apr 19, 2013
@ff1961 / Instagram

Folks used Instagram to document relief efforts and show support for the victims of the West Texas explosion. We kept all the captions as they appeared on the photo sharing site. Click HERE for ways you can help.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

One of the most dramatic scenes from Wednesday night’s fertilizer plant explosion was the damage to a nursing home called West Rest Haven, just a couple of streets over from the plant.

Courtney Collins has more on the heroic actions of quick thinking employees.

The FAQ On Fertilizer

Apr 18, 2013

The Washington Post's WonkBlog has a standout look at the fertilizer business. One choice tidbit: The U.S. imports far more fertilizer ($13 billion worth) than it exports ($4.5 billion). And the biggest suppliers? Canada, Russia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Update, 12:15 a.m.: "An unbelievable tragedy" -- that's how D.L. Wilson of the Department of Public Safety described Wednesday night's fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. Speaking to the media just after midnight, he added that he'd toured the blast zone, and it looked "just like Iraq, just like the Murrah building in Oklahoma City," which was bombed 18 years ago this week.

Wilson said more than 100 were injured, and he confirmed that people have died, though he gave no number.