Blast loss in Texas likely to exceed $100M
WEST, Texas — The damage to surrounding homes and businesses caused by an explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant was estimated on Wednesday to exceed $100 million, as crews continued to sift through a 90-foot-wide crater searching for answers.
The Insurance Council of Texas released its estimate after speaking to numerous adjusters and agents in West, Texas, where officials and displaced residents are working to rebuild after last week's blast. The explosion killed at least 14 people, injured 200 and damaged dozens of buildings.
Investigators have not determined what started the blast or whether it was intentional. At least two lawsuits have been filed against Adair Grain Inc., which operated the West Fertilizer plant.
Mark Hanna, a spokesman for the Insurance Council, said that figure included estimates on how many homes were destroyed, the property inside and the cost of relocating residents. As many as 140 homes were damaged, he said. With housing limited in West, many families are living in nearby Waco or Hillsboro.
“When you put something together like this, you want to be on the high side,” Hanna said. “When you go into a catastrophic situation, the last thing you want to do is low-ball estimates like this.”
Investigators said Wednesday that the explosion occurred at 7:51 p.m. on April 17 — 18 minutes after first responders, including volunteer firefighters from West, were alerted to a fire at West Fertilizer. Most of the 10 first responders who died in the explosion were found east of the main crater, Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner said.
Officials continue to study fire and blast patterns to try to determine what ignited on the site and how, Kistner said.
“Right now, think of that coffee table where all 100 pieces are gathered around,” said Brian Hoback, national response team supervisor for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Work crews were spread across the site Wednesday. Some were digging with shovels through the ruins of a building. Others were sifting through the remains of two silos, one that held corn and the other holding milo or sorghum.
A rail car that carried ammonium nitrate remained on site, covered by a tarp. Officials don't believe it was the cause of the blast.
At least two lawsuits have been filed in state district court in McLennan County, where West is located. Andrea Jones Gutierrez, a woman who lived in an apartment building severely damaged in the blast, filed suit Monday, seeking up to $1 million in damages.
Gutierrez had left her apartment after the fire began, just before the explosion, said her attorney, Randy Roberts. Her 14-year-old son was at church when the blast occurred.
“I don't have any special information or detailed information to go into depth about what went wrong, but obviously, something did go wrong, and the mere fact of an explosion of this type is evidence in and of itself of negligence,” Roberts said.
Four insurance companies also sued West Fertilizer on behalf of several residents and businesses in West. Their attorney, Paul Grinke, said the lawsuit filed Friday was to ensure that his clients have access to the scene of the blast once the official investigation finishes.
“I'm not on a witch hunt for the West Fertilizer Co.,” Grinke said. “We're going to go where the evidence leads us.”
A spokesman for West Fertilizer declined comment on the lawsuits, saying, “Our focus remains on the fact finding.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Santorum charter flight tab broke $400K
- $18.7B record-breaking deal clears path for BP to put Gulf Coast oil spill in rearview mirror
- Soldiers’ families awarded $134.2M in Afghanistan grenade attack
- New York’s fracking ban starts clock for lawsuits
- Illegal immigrants stay in shift of policies
- Measles death 1st known in U.S. in 12 years
- Kentucky clerk sued for denying license to wed to any couples
- Sex offenders say Indiana curbs religious freedom
- IRS says staff didn’t hide emails
- Thefts, foul-ups by employees cost TSA $3M in 5 years
- Catholic bishops pressure presidential candidates