Local planning faulted in Texas fertilizer site explosion

Reuters — An explosion at a Texas fertilizer storage facility in 2013 that killed 15 people likely happened because the owner of the site kept combustible material near a 30-ton pile of ammonium nitrate, according to a report released by the federal Chemical Safety Board on Monday.

The April 17, 2013 blast was especially deadly because first responders who gathered to fight the fire had not trained for an emergency at the facility and likely did not know the ammonium nitrate could explode, the report said. Twelve of the 15 killed were firefighters and other first responders.

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The board’s investigators also faulted community planning that allowed the town to grow up around the facility, exacerbating the damage.

The blast at the West Fertilizer Co. site in West, Texas destroyed a high school, an apartment complex and a nursing home and damaged 150 buildings.

A Reuters investigation conducted in the weeks after the explosion found hundreds of schools, 20 hospitals and 13 churches, as well as hundreds of thousands of households located near ammonium nitrate storage sites across the U.S.

The mayor of West, Tommy Muska, said he could not comment on the report because the city is still involved in lawsuits related to the explosion.

Wanda Adair, former vice-president of Adair Grain, said she and her husband Donald, the owner of West Fertilizer, had no comment on the report.

Reporting for Reuters by M.B. Pell.

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