West Fertilizer Explosion Cause “Undetermined”: Citizens Demand Answers
Since the devastating explosion at the West Fertilizer plant in Wset, Texas back on April 17, investigators from the federal ATF and State Fire Marshal’s Office have been working tirelessly to figure out the cause of the blast. They have conducted about 400 interviews and sifted through tons of debris. Despite all of that work, they have thus far had to declare the cause “undetermined,” although they were able to narrow the list of potential causes to three; a battery powered cart, a potential electrical system problem at the plant, and possible arson or some other criminal act. They ruled out many other possible causes, including someone smoking in the area or the rail car stacked with 100 tons of fertilizer that was sitting adjacent to the plant.
There were actually two explosions, less than one second apart, about 20 minutes after the fire started. The second explosion was caused by between 28-34 tons of ammonium nitrate that was being stored in the plant, and it had a power equivalent to 15-20,000 pounds of TNT. It was so powerful, it registered a small earthquake in the area and it left behind a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Another 20-30 tons of ammonium nitrate that was being stored on site and the fertilizer that was being stored on the adjacent rail car did not explode.
Of course, the blasts cost the lives of 15 people, including 10 first responders and two people who had just shown up to help fight the fire. It flattened a nearby apartment building, and badly damaged portions of two nearby schools and a number of homes.
The people of West, Texas are starting to move back into their homes, and pick up the pieces of their lives. But until someone can get a handle on what actually caused the fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer plant, there will probably be little closure.