Investigators fault community planning in deadly 2013 Texas explosion

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 25, 2016 5:24 PM

By M.B. Pell

(Reuters) - An explosion at the West Fertilizer Co of West, Texas on April 17, 2013 that killed 15 people and damaged 150 buildings likely happened because the owner of the fertilizer storage facility kept combustible material near a 30-ton pile of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer also used to make explosives, according to a report released by the federal Chemical Safety Board today on Monday.

The blast was especially deadly because the first responders who gathered to fight a fire at the at the company had not trained for an emergency at the facility and likely did not know the ammonium nitrate could explode, the report said. Twelve of the 15 killed were firefighters and other first responders.

The board’s investigators also faulted community planning that allowed the town to grow up around the facility, exacerbating the damage.

The blast destroyed a high school, an apartment complex and a nursing home.

A Reuters investigation conducted in the weeks after the explosion found hundreds of schools, 20 hospitals and 13 churches, as well as hundreds of thousands of households located near ammonium nitrate storage sites across the United States.

The mayor of West, Tommy Muska, said he could not comment on the report because the city is still involved in lawsuits related to the explosion.

Wanda Adair, former vice president of Adair Grain, said she and her husband Donald, the owner of the company West Fertilizer Co, had no comment on the report.

(Reporting by M.B. Pell)