14 people confirmed dead in West fertilizer explosion - KMSP-TV

14 people confirmed dead in West fertilizer explosion

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WEST, Texas -

After days of conflicting reports about the number of missing, the Mayor Pro-Tem in West said Saturday that everyone is now accounted for.

The fertilizer plant explosion killed 14 people Wednesday. Four firefighters died, including one from North Texas. At least 200 were injured.

A fire began Wednesday evening at the West Fertilizer plant. Fifty minutes later, an explosion was reported in a frantic radio call from the scene at 1471 Jerry Mashek Dr., just off Interstate 35. Authorities said there is no indication that the blast was anything but an accident.

Saturday afternoon, some residents were finally allowed back in their homes, to see what sort of damage the explosion left behind.

Friday afternoon, the owner of the plant issued a statement - his first public comment.

Donald Adair, owner of Adair Grain, Inc., praised the first responders and said the hearts of the company go out to everyone who has suffered.

Adair also said one of the plant's employees died in the blast as a volunteer firefighter.

"The owners and employees of Adair Grain and West Fertilizer Co. are working closely with investigating agencies," Adair said in the statement. "We pledge to do everything we can to understand what happened to ensure nothing like this ever happens again in any community."

Dallas Fire officials confirmed Thursday evening DFR Capt. Kenny Harris was killed in the West fertilizer explosion. Harris lived in West and responded on his own to help out local firefighters.

"Captain Harris rushed to the scene compelled to provide assistance to his community during this crisis," said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings in a statement. "I want to express my deepest condolences to his family, friends and co-workers."

Officials from multiple agencies have said an estimated 75 to 100 homes and businesses have been destroyed in West. A medical response/triage center was initially set up on the football field in West. In fear of a second blast, the triage center moved to a community center.

Governor Rick Perry, in a midday press conference on Thursday, called the explosion "a truly nightmare scenario."

Perry declared McLennan County, where West is located, a disaster area. He said federal officials are working to expedite the official declaration so federal aid dollars can begin flowing.

President Barack Obama called Perry from Air Force One on Thursday morning to offer his support and prayers, according to the governor.

"Today our prayers go out to the people of West, Texas in the aftermath of last night's deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant," Obama said in a statement. "West is a town that many Texans hold near and dear to their hearts, and as residents continue to respond to this tragedy, they will have the support of the American people."

Sgt. Swanton said at a Thursday morning press conference that search teams are still searching for people. He said some people were still trapped inside homes and businesses near the explosion.

Sgt. Swanton said while driving through the debris, he saw windows blown out, bricks torn off buildings, and homes leveled. He compared the scene as "tornadic in effect" and said "part of the community is gone."

There were also reports of people looting some of the empty homes that were evacuated right after the blast. Authorities later said it was just one incident and called it "isolated."

West Mayor Tommy Muska said in a press conference, "I ask for your prayers." He said that 133 people at a nearby nursing home all had to be evacuated. Many of the injuries at the nursing home were from shards of glass. At least nine people with burn injuries were taken to Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

Sky4 showed an apartment complex blown apart by the blast. According to Fox 4's Dan Godwin, five to six blocks are leveled. The rain on Thursday morning helped put out hotspots but hindered rescue efforts.

D.L. Wilson with Texas Department of Public Safety said gas companies are turning off gas to the areas where the explosion happened. He said with all the firefighters and EMS flowing into the town, no more help is needed at this time. 

"First of all our hearts and prayers go out to the community out here in West. It's a small farming community, with a Czech background," said Wilson. "They've always opened their arms to everybody that passes through here on I-35 and McLennan County, Texas. Our hearts and prayers go out to them. This is an unbelievable tragedy that's happened here tonight."

Wilson was honest about what he saw on Wednesday night, just hours after the blast.

"I can tell you I was there I walked through the blast area, I searched some houses earlier tonight, massive. Just like Iraq. Just like the Murrah building in Oklahoma City," said Wilson. "We're worried about people right now, not property. We want people to be safe. That's our main goal right now is getting the people safe and getting them out of there."

Officials said immediate family members only can call 254-202-1100 looking for loved ones.

People felt the explosion as far as Red Oak, Ennis, Cleburne, Hillsboro and Waxahachie.

In relation to the popular Czech Stop Grocery & Deli shop where many folks stop to get kolaches and other snacks, the West Fertilizer is five minutes away.

Many hospitals near West will need blood donations. To donate, contact Carter BloodCare at their website and find a location nearest you. If you live in East Texas you are being asked to go to the nearest Carter Bloodcare to donate.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the fertilizer plant explosion in West, TX registered as a 2.1 magnitude earthquake.

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