Texas fertilizer plant blast probe continues

Plant owner issues statement; investigation continues into cause of deadly explosion in West, Texas, April 17 that killed 14 people and injured 160.


ISS SourceAn investigation is continuing into what led to the explosions that rocked a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, on April 17, that killed 14 people and injured 160.

Waco police Sgt. William Patrick Swanton said there is no indication the blast was anything other than an industrial accident, but the ATF will be investigating.

Donald Adair, a fixture in the West community, owns Adair Grain and Adair Farms, which comprises crop production and cattle feed lots. He is 83 years old. According to Dun and Bradstreet, Adair founded the company in 1958. It has 8 employees.

Adair issued the following statement on Friday, April 19:

“This has been a terrible week for everyone in West, Texas and I want to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt sympathy for those affected and my appreciation for those who responded.

“As a lifelong resident, my heart is broken with grief for the tragic losses to so many families in our community. I know that everyone has been deeply affected by this incident. Loved ones have been injured or killed. Homes have been damaged or destroyed. Our hearts go out to everyone who has suffered.

“The selfless sacrifice of first responders who died trying to protect all of us is something I will never get over. I was devastated to learn that we lost one of our employees in the explosion. He bravely responded to the fire at the facility as a volunteer firefighter. I will never forget his bravery and his sacrifice, or that of his colleagues who rushed to the trouble.

“This tragedy will continue to hurt deeply for generations to come.

“My family and I can't express enough our deep appreciation for the loving service and selfless sacrifice from within and around our community responding to the urgent needs of those affected. I am proud to be associated with West Church of Christ, which has opened its doors to the State of Texas to provide grief counseling services. My family and I will continue to assist in relief efforts through our church family.

“The genuine kindness we have witnessed will be the hallmark for all of our children's children. Going forward, the owners and employees of Adair Grain and West Fertilizer Co. are working closely with investigating agencies. We are presenting all employees for interviews and will assist in the fact finding to whatever degree possible. We pledge to do everything we can to understand what happened to ensure nothing like this ever happens again in any community.

“While the investigation continues, and out of respect for the investigative process, we will limit our comments during the weeks and months ahead.”

Mayor Tommy Muska said the explosion sent up a ball of fire. Muska, who is also a firefighter in the small town, said there was heavy damage in a five or six block area. There is concern, he said, about chemical fumes in an area north of the plant, and he urged residents to stay indoors.

He said 133 people were in the West Rest Haven Nursing Home located near the fertilizer plant at time of explosion. Officials ended up evacuating the home after the fire started – and before the explosion – at the plant.

Wilson, the trooper, said half the town had been evacuated due to damage or the threat posed by fumes from the burning plant.

"When that northwind changes, we might have to evacuate the other side of town," Wilson said.

The president of West Fertilizer is Ted Uptmore, whose family is prominent in West and operates a livestock auction business near the plant called West Auctions. 

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