Rail car with ammonium nitrate didn’t cause Texas blast: fire official

Debris from a destroyed housing complex lies near a damaged vehicle, next to the site of a deadly fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West, near Waco, Texas April 21, 2013. REUTERS/Michael
Debris from a destroyed housing complex lies near a damaged vehicle, next to the site of a deadly fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West, near Waco, Texas April 21, 2013. REUTERS/Michael

A rail car filled with extremely hazardous ammonium nitrate did not cause the fiery explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant, investigators said on Tuesday, in their first statement ruling out possible sources of the deadly blast six days ago.

Fourteen people died in the explosion at the West Fertilizer Co last Wednesday, and some 200 were injured.

Investigators said they also ruled out a weather event such as lightning as the cause of the fire and blast, and said they had narrowed down the possible sources to an accident, arson or an unexplained cause.

The repercussions of the blast increased on Tuesday, as the McLennan County district court said at least two lawsuits had been filed against the company’s parent, Adair Grain. They were filed by a displaced resident of the town, and insurance companies representing businesses damaged by the blast.

Until Tuesday, investigators had been extremely tight-lipped about what might have caused the explosion and inferno that wiped out parts of the town of West, Texas.

Attention had focused on the presence at the plant of large quantities of ammonium nitrate, a dry fertilizer mixed with other ingredients and applied to crops.

Ammonium nitrate also is a possible ingredient in a bomb and was used by Timothy McVeigh in 1995 to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.

West Fertilizer disclosed to a Texas state agency that it had 270 tons of ammonium nitrate on hand at the plant last year. There also had been persistent rumors that a rail car delivered to the plant by Union Pacific full of ammonium nitrate might have caught on fire and caused the blast.

But Kelly Kistner, assistant Texas state fire chief, ruled out the rail car of ammonium nitrate as the cause.

“What I can tell you today is that railcar that there’s been questions about, that was full of ammonium nitrate, is not the cause of the fire or cause of the explosion. It is a victim of that explosion,” said Kistner.

Union Pacific had confirmed that it delivered a rail car to the plant on April 15, two days before the blast, but declined to detail what was inside.

A spokeswoman for Union Pacific, Raquel Espinoza, said the railroad did not own the rail car or its contents.

“Photographs taken after the incident show the rail car lying on its side, largely intact, with no evidence of it being directly involved in the explosion or fire,” she said in a statement emailed to Reuters on Tuesday.

“The car was knocked over by the explosion, resulting in some of its cargo being spilled. There are no visible signs of the cargo being burnt. Most of the cargo appears to have remained inside the rail car,” Espinoza said.

The statement by Kistner on Tuesday did not completely eliminate ammonium nitrate as a possible cause of the blast because investigators have not commented on the stocks of ammonium nitrate other than the material in the rail car.

More than 70 state and federal agents are going through the scene “shovel by shovel,” looking for the initial heat source, Kistner said.

The lawsuits, the first of what are expected to be many against the parent company of West Fertilizer, Adair Grain, accused the company of negligence. The plant is owned by Donald Adair, a longtime farmer in the area who bought it in 2004. Adair also owns the grain business and farms some 5,000 acres of cropland and pasture in the area.

A spokesman for Adair said the company declined to comment on the lawsuits.

Funerals for the dead were set to begin in the small farming town of 2,700 people on the Interstate highway between Austin and Dallas known for its Czech heritage.

A 31-year Dallas Fire Department Captain, Kenneth “Luckey” Harris Jr., 52, who was killed when he rushed to the scene of the blast to help, will be remembered on Wednesday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church of the Assumption.

President Barack Obama will attend a memorial on Thursday in nearby Waco, Texas for all of the paramedics and firefighters killed in the explosion.

 


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Boston hospitals apply lessons learned in Marathon bombings

The bombs at last year's Boston Marathon showcased the city's medical talent but also taught valuable lessons in responding to a mass disaster.

National

Rapper affiliate of Wu-Tang Clan 'cuts off own…

Rapper Andre Johnson, who has performed with New York outfit the Wu-Tang Clan, is in a critical condition after reportedly cutting off his own penis…

International

Canadian charged in 'Heartbleed' attack on tax agency

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian police have arrested a 19-year-old man and charged him in connection with exploiting the "Heartbleed" bug to steal taxpayer data from…

National

Every dog has his day in court, in…

(Reuters) - Call him juror K-9.A computer glitch is likely to blame for a summons that called a German Shepherd to report for jury duty,…

Movies

The Cannes Film Festival announces its 2014 lineup

The lineup of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival was announced this morning, promising the latest from a slew of usual (and some unusual) suspects.

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 8

Sure, it's called Survivor. But this season should really be called 'The Tony Show.'

Television

Jim Rash talks 'The Writer's Room' and amazing…

For Jim Rash, as the fifth season of "Community" comes to a close, the second season of "The Writer's Room" begins.

Television

'Dexter' star Jennifer Carpenter moves into producing role

The actress who played the title character's sister in "Dexter" is teaming up with producer George Stelzner to adapt Erika Hayasaki's book "The Death Class:…

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox beat White Sox…

Red Sox walk 15 times in extra innings win

NBA

Kris Humphries on free agency, future with Celtics:…

Kris Humphries on free agency, future with Celtics: 'I hope to be back'

NBA

Celtics turn attention to NBA Draft, improve lottery…

Celtics turn attention to NBA Draft, improve lottery odds with loss

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April version

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April version

Wellbeing

This Week in Health: chocolate may prevent obesity…

Can chocolate prevent obesity and diabetes? Location of study: U.S. Study subjects: Mice Results: The positive health benefits of chocolate have been studied increasingly more…

Wellbeing

This Week in Health News: breastfed infants trying…

Are breastfed infants trying to prevent mom from having another baby? Theory: The act of breastfeeding not only brings mom and baby closer together –…

Wellbeing

Unexplained infertility may be caused by lack of…

Researchers have identified a protein on the egg's surface that interacts with another protein on the surface of sperm, allowing the two cells to join.

Tech

5 surprising facts about Google Glass

Your sex life could get more interesting.