Texas Law and News Blog

Fertilizer Plant Explosion Rocks West, Texas, Showing Magnitude of Industrial Accidents

On April 17th, 2012, shortly before 8:00 p.m., a huge explosion at the West Fertilizer Plant in West, Texas, destroyed surrounding homes and buildings leaving  over 130 injured.  A fire broke out at the plant earlier and emergency responders were trying to put the fire out when the explosion occurred. Seven emergency responders have been confirmed dead and at least one more is missing.

A nearby 50-unit apartment building was one of the buildings devastated by the blast.  A damaged nursing home reported some injuries but thankfully no deaths as approximately 130 patients had to be evacuated. A nearby school also caught fire due to the blast. Early estimates suggested that as many as 50 homes were damaged in the blast.  More injured and dead are expected to be found as a door-to-door rescue operation continues in the blast zone.

A one-mile radius of the blast had been ordered to evacuate due to concerns of a second blast, toxic fumes and fires. Reported injuries have ranged from minor lacerations to severe burn and blast injuries. Injured persons have been taken to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center, Parkland Medical Center of Waco, Providence Health Center of Waco and Scott and White Hospital in Temple.

West, Texas is located on I-35 between Waco and Hillsboro. It is roughly 75 miles south of Dallas, Texas and has a population of roughly 2700 people.  Having grown up in the central Texas area, I can tell you the town is probably best known for their kolaches at the Czech Stop Little Czech Bakery that attracts travelers to stop in as they shuttle up and down the I-35 corridor. The plant was not far from I-35.

Investigators both local and from Washington are still working to determine what ignited the original fire leading to the deadly blast. As with any plant explosion, sorting through the blast to find the cause takes time.  Investigators have not ruled out accident, arson or terrorist act at this time.

Industrial plants are regulated by federal law.  Certain safe guards and precautions are required not only to ensure that equipment failure does not occur, but also that unauthorized persons do not get into the facility.  A industrial accident defense lawyer can look into prior permits and citations issued to the plant to determine whether it was in compliance with federal law or whether there was a history of violations.

This explosion demonstrates how far-reaching the damage can be from an industrial accident and why strict regulation is necessary.  Right now, preventing further loss of life and injury by rescue operations takes priority.  In the weeks to come, not only will there need to be physical damage assessments, but also environmental impact analysis done. What we have seen so far has likely not even scratched the surface of true magnitude of the damage done here.

Perhaps the investigation will reveal not just a cause, but the need for stronger, better regulation.  Regardless of the cause, please pray for the victims and their families of this tragic explosion.