West, TX, Blast Left 262 Hurt

Monday, July 7, 2014 @ 04:07 PM gHale

It was well over a year ago, but a health report on the impact of the West fertilizer plant explosion found in addition to the 15 people killed, 262 people suffered injuries in the huge April 17, 2013 blast.

The report released last Tuesday by the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

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About 20 percent of the injured suffered concussions or traumatic brain injury. Other common injuries included hearing, vision and breathing problems.

Seventy-two people suffered injuries in the nearby West Rest Haven nursing home adjacent to the West Fertilizer Co. The explosion caved in a portion of the home.

The report acknowledges it doesn’t include injured people who sought private care or officials may have missed in their count.

In another report, officials determined the 12 firefighters who died battling the West Fertilizer Co. blaze were not ready for the ferocity of the fire and should have focused on evacuating the area rather than extinguishing the flames.

The line-of-duty report from the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office examined the deaths of a dozen first responders and concluded the West volunteer fire department attacked a fire at the plant “that was significantly beyond the extinguishment stage” using small hose lines and a limited water supply.

The primary focus should have been evacuation not engaging the fire, the agency said.

The incident at West Fertilizer Co., which had operated for more than 50 years in a residential part of town, killed three residents in addition to the firefighters and caused damage estimated at $100 million.

The cause of the fire remains unknown but the source of the explosion it sparked was ammonium nitrate stored in a wooden container at the plant, investigators said. The ammonium nitrate detonated with the force of approximately 15,000 to 20,000 pounds of TNT, according to federal officials.



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