Texas launches criminal investigation into West fertilizer blast

10 May 2013 19:32  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Texas Rangers announced on Friday that a criminal investigation has been ordered for the 17 April explosion at West Fertilizer.

According to DPS Director Steven McCraw, the state agency has asked the Texas Rangers to join McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara in reviewing the explosion that occurred at the fertilizer distributor, which killed 14, injured 200 and caused an estimated $100m (€77m) in damages to the small community of West, Texas.

“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,” said McCraw.

Since the initial investigation begun nearly three weeks ago, authorities have not ruled out that the explosion could have been criminally motivated or decided to rule the blast as an industrial accident. Investigators have said all along that they were trying to let the evidence determine the outcome of their review.

At this time, authorities have determined that natural causes, such as lightening, did not start the fire or the subsequent explosion and have ruled out the company’s four tanks of anhydrous ammonia or a Union Pacific railcar that was initially thought to be containing ammonium nitrate as being factors in igniting the detonation.

Earlier this week, authorities announced that ammonium nitrate stored within the facility was the cause of the blast and that their investigation now centred on how the initial fire started.

McLennan County Sheriff McNamara said due to the magnitude of the explosion and the tremendous damage and loss of life, it was paramount to make sure every aspect of the explosion was reviewed to determine why and how the accident occurred.

The announcement came hours after local authorities arrested West volunteer paramedic Bryce Ashley Reed, 31, and have filed federal charges against him related to the possession of an explosive device.

Authorities have not said at this time whether or not this charge has any connection to the fertilizer explosion.

Reed has been identified as one of the first people to respond to West Fertilizer after the explosion, which killed several of the volunteer fire fighters putting out the initial blaze.

According to information from McLennan Sheriff’s Office, Reed had asked an acquaintance to store a box for him in the days after the explosion. That person eventually decided to examine the contents of the box and discovered what appeared to be a pipe bomb and called the sheriff, who informed federal authorities.

Reed was arrested by federal marshals early on Friday and was being held without bond, according to the sheriff’s department. He is scheduled to be arraigned later in the day at the federal courthouse in Waco.

($1 = €0.77)

By: Mark Milam
+1 713 525 2653

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