Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw has 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.
“This disaster has severely impacted the community of West, and we want to ensure that no stone goes unturned and that all the facts related to this incident are uncovered,” Director McCraw said in an announcement released by the DPS.
“The citizens of McLennan County and Texas must have confidence that this incident has been looked at from every angle and professionally handled – they deserve nothing less,” said Sheriff McNamara.
The Dallas Morning News and other news sources, including the Fox News affiliate in Dallas, reported that Bryce Reed, a paramedic from West, Texas, had been arrested overnight for allegedly possessing an explosive device.
DPS officials did not say whether the criminal investigation was related to Reed’s arrest.
The West Fertilizer Co. facility explosion resulted in the deaths of 14 people and an estimated $100 million in damage to the surrounding area. More than 200 others were said to be injured from the blast. The Associated Press reported that the facility carried only $1 million in liability coverage from United States Fire Insurance Co. of Morristown, N.J.
At least six lawsuits have been filed against West Fertilizer and its owners, Adair Grain Inc.
The DPS said no further information regarding this ongoing investigation will be released at this time.
Three weeks after the disaster in West, DPS Division of Emergency Management officials also continue to work with local, state and federal partners to assess the damages and facilitate recovery assistance to the victims in the community.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office has said that the fire that triggered the explosion started in the fertilizer and seed building. Investigators do say that ammonium nitrate was detonated in the explosion.
While the exact cause of the fire is still unknown, the SFMO said a number of causes have been eliminated as triggers for the initial fire, including: weather, natural, anhydrous ammonium, the railcar containing ammonium nitrate, and a fire within the ammonium nitrate bin. Additionally, water used during firefighting activities did not contribute to the cause of the explosion, the SFMO has said.
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