Skip to main content

Powerful Texas blast left nearly 100-foot-wide crater

By Todd Sperry and Greg Botelho, CNN
April 24, 2013 -- Updated 1902 GMT (0302 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The West Fertilizer Co. is focused on "fact finding," not on pending lawsuits
  • NEW: Residents gather at a local hall hoping to get answers from officials
  • Investigators say the fire that led to blast wasn't sparked by natural causes
  • They are hunting for clues, including using shovels to dig through debris

West, Texas (CNN) -- Walls warped or blown off entirely, even ones made of brick. Roofs sunken in, if they are still visible at all. Garage doors lying in yards.

And, at the center of it all, a crater nearly 100 feet wide and 10 feet deep.

On Tuesday, the devastation from last week's explosions at a West, Texas, fertilizer distributor became more eerily apparent as officials offered new details and opened more roads around the town's hardest hit areas.

While the blast's lethal power was clear, many other questions remain.

Town devastated by explosion is guided by the West way

Why did a fire start in the facility, which had shut down to workers for the day? How did that fire spark the massive explosion that tore through the northern part of town -- killing 14 people, including nine first responders, and injuring hundreds of others? What, if anything, could have been done to prevent the tragedy?

U.S. President Barack Obama attends a memorial service at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, on April 25. The memorial was held for those killed in the blast at a Texas fertilizer plant. Fourteen people, nearly all first responders, died in an explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. on April 17. See photos from the explosion. U.S. President Barack Obama attends a memorial service at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, on April 25. The memorial was held for those killed in the blast at a Texas fertilizer plant. Fourteen people, nearly all first responders, died in an explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. on April 17. See photos from the explosion.
West, Texas: A community mourns
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
West, Texas: A community mourns West, Texas: A community mourns
Texas blast victim expects long recovery
Texas residents see homes after blast
Man survives Boston bombing, Texas blast

So far, investigators have eliminated the possibility that natural causes started the fire, but they haven't gone beyond that.

Brothers, friends lost in Texas explosion

When not funneling in and out of the command center at West High School, federal, state and local officials spent Tuesday outside using shovels to methodically search for clues.

Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner said investigators were starting in the least-damaged areas, hoping to determine the heat source or material that ignited the fire.

The West Fertilizer Company said its officials are focused on "fact finding," not lawsuits that may come after the blast.

"We continue to do everything we can to understand what happened to ensure nothing like this ever happens again in any community," the company said.

Residents of this tight-knit town of 2,800, meanwhile, tried to get back to normal, though the explosion is never far from their minds.

At the Pizza House on Oak Street, waitstaff and locals discussed the state of their homes while drinking their beers, trying to figure out how to deal with the fact their once quaint farming town now resembled a war zone.

Several hundred residents gathered Tuesday night at a Knights of Columbus hall, some of them standing because the place was so packed, hoping to get answers from officials.

They kept their tempers in check, though it was apparent many residents just want to go home.

Some who live in damaged residences in areas that have been opened up to traffic have gotten that chance.

On Tuesday -- two days before President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama head to Waco, about 18 miles south, for a memorial service at Baylor University -- some of them stood motionless on their front lawns, taking in the devastation.

Others kept busy sifting through what remained or trying to fix what they could. The sounds -- of trailers full of debris rolling by, or the buzz of power tools -- were reminders that, for some, life was moving on.

CNN's Ed Lavandera contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Texas fertilizer plant explosion
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
West, Texas, isn't just a town. It's a family.
At least 14 people, including nine first responders. The names of those that lost their lives are in our memorial interactive.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1514 GMT (2314 HKT)
A paramedic who responded to the deadly fertilizer plant explosion was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for conspiring to make a pipe bomb.
April 26, 2013 -- Updated 0941 GMT (1741 HKT)
They were wives and brothers and fathers and grandmothers, and they were hurting.
April 27, 2013 -- Updated 2004 GMT (0404 HKT)
To really know West, you have to venture about half a mile east. There, past the Ole Czech Smoke House selling sausages and the flags flying at half-staff, the people tell the story.
April 26, 2013 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Two days after a deadly explosion ripped through the small Texas town, Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton found himself carefully picking through the debris of damaged homes looking for lost pets.
April 26, 2013 -- Updated 1628 GMT (0028 HKT)
Learn what you can do to help the people injured and affected by the explosion in Texas.
April 19, 2013 -- Updated 0307 GMT (1107 HKT)
As the sun rose, the small town's devastation came into fuller view: a gruesome, bloody scene, homes flattened to rubble, and scores of firefighters battling a raging blaze.
The explosion damaged buildings for blocks in every direction. Between 50 and 60 homes in a five-block area sustained damage, officials said.
April 18, 2013 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
The blast was so catastrophic, it destroyed Marty Marak's home, killed his dog and leveled houses for blocks around.
April 18, 2013 -- Updated 1308 GMT (2108 HKT)
Firefighters at the scene of a massive fertilizer plant explosion in Texas were concerned Wednesday night about anhydrous ammonia.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 0145 GMT (0945 HKT)
Click through photos documenting the explosion and its aftermath in West, Texas.
April 18, 2013 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
Dr. George Smith describes what he went through when a fertilizer plant exploded in West, Texas. KCEN reports
April 18, 2013 -- Updated 0924 GMT (1724 HKT)
Watch video of the moment a burning West, Texas, fertilizer plant erupts in a massive explosion.
ADVERTISEMENT