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West, Texas Coverage: Fertilizer Plant Explosion. Off-Duty Dallas Captain Kenny Harris Among the Dead. 200+ Injured

Last updated at 8pm (Scroll Down to Full Coverage)

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Off-duty Dallas FD Captain Kenny Harris was killed in the explosion. Captain Harris, who is a resident of West, went to help the volunteers of West with the fire according to reports.

The Scoop Blog (DallasNews.com):

Harris, a 52-year-old father of three, was among the multiple fatalities. Reportedly off-duty when the tragedy struck, Harris did what he was trained to do — help.

The Dallas Fire-Rescue captain lived in the community, but has worked for the city of Dallas for nearly 31 years.

Chief Billy Goldfeder (FirefighterCloseCalls.com) has offered “unofficial” news of 11 deaths related to Fire & EMS:

  • 5 West FD Firefighters
  • 4 West EMS Medics
  • 1 Off Duty Fire Captain (Kenny Harris) *Confirmed
  • 1 unconfirmed Firefighter (unknown agency at this time)

Official word has not been released on the numbers, but Goldfeder sites reliable sources from the scene in West, Texas.

Those numbers above don’t quite add up to the remarks of Mayor Muska below (or further remarks below that)…

DallasNews.com:

West Mayor Tommy Muska said state responders, who have helped organize the search and rescue operation, told him that 80 percent of the devastated areas, including a nursing home and 50-unit apartment complex, have been searched so far. Teams have found eight to 10 bodies and expect to find at least a half dozen more at the West Fertilizer Co. facility when they can search those grounds.

USAToday.com:

WEST, Texas — Around 35 people, including 10 first responders, were killed in the Texas fertilizer company explosion Wednesday night, West Mayor Tommy Muska said in an interview with USA TODAY.

The dead include five members of the West Volunteer Fire Department who were trying to put out the initial blaze, four EMS workers and an off-duty Dallas firefighter who pitched in to help, Muska said. Not all the bodies have been recovered but all are assumed dead.

Two volunteers who showed up to help fight the blaze are also missing and presumed dead, he said.

The rest of the fatalities include residents from nearby homes in the devastated four-block area of this small north-central Texas town 20 miles north of Waco, the mayor added.

Dallas Captain Kenny Harris

KWTX.com:

The number of injured rose to more than 200 Thursday.

About 100 patients were treated at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center.

Twenty-eight were admitted and five were in ICU Thursday afternoon.

Here is another view of the blast

Video of the blast is below

Video by: zidyboby

1pm 4/18/13 update

Houston Fire Department’s Texas Task Force 1 deployed to West

City of West, Texas Fire Department web site

Photos from the explosion

There still hasn’t been any update on the confirmed deaths. There are mixed reports on firefighter, EMT, and Police Officer deaths at this point. The latest estimate on the death toll is 15 total, but that is a rough estimate without any concrete information. 3-4 firefighters are being reported as missing. The injuries reported around 160 currently.

It is easy to understand that there are some first responder deaths. After all, firefighters were on scene battling the fire when the explosion occurred. All we can do right now is wait until the area can be thoroughly searched for survivors and those who have perished. Firefighters from all over the area are on scene helping out in the rescue/search efforts.

I will continue to update as new and “official” information is available.

Noon 4/18/13 update

DallasNews.com:

Search and rescue teams were combing the crumbled sites in hopes of finding survivors. More than 160 injured people have been taken to hospitals, and emergency responders believe more victims might be trapped alive.

That “is good news to me,” Sgt W. Patrick Swanton, the Waco police spokesman handling media briefings in West, said early Thursday morning. Authorities have “not gotten to the point of no return.”

At a later media briefing about 10 a.m., Swanton added: “It’s a very slow, methodical search.”

Swanton repeated an earlier figure of five to 15 people killed but said that’s based on “very limited” information from “folks at the scene,” including local, state and federal officials. Three to four West volunteer firefighters who were at the plant when it exploded shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday remain missing.

However, one emergency worker who had been reported as missing, a constable serving as a volunteer firefighter, was found hospitalized with “serious” injuries.

10:30 am 4/18/13 update

FirefighterNation.com has coverage here

MyFoxDW.com:

A major explosion occurred Wednesday night at a fertilizer plant in the city of West, near Hillsboro in north-central Texas – killing between five and 15  people and injuring at least 160 more. Three to four firefighters who were battling the fire that occurred before the explosion are unaccounted for.

Waco Police Spokesperson Sgt. William Patrick Swanton said a fire began Wednesday evening at the West Fertilizer plant. Fifty minutes later, an explosion was reported in a frantic radio call from the scene of the fire at the plant at 1471 Jerry Mashek Dr. just off Interstate 35. Authorities said there is no indication that the blast was anything but an accident.

A Facebook page has been set up for the Fallen Firefighters. Currently there are over 15k fans, but no information has been shared yet.

KWTX.com:

Teams of first responders descended on the devastated town of West, Texas, early Thursday where a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant left scores of casualties and turned homes to rubble.

The number of dead remained unclear, with police saying it could be between five and 15. More than 160 people were injured and “three to four” firefighters were missing or unaccounted for, officials said.

Firefighters were battling the blaze that precipitated the explosion Wednesday night. And a storm system heading into the area brought helpful rain — but also heavy winds that might make it much tougher to contain the fire.

8am 4/18/13 update

KWTX.com:

Rescuers were conducting another door-to-door search early Thursday for the living and the dead in areas damaged by a massive fertilizer plant explosion in West that left more than 100 injured and may have killed dozens.

As of 4:45, officials say five to fifteen people are believed to be dead.
Six firefighters and two paramedics are confirmed dead and seven nursing home residents were missing after the blast according to West EMS Director Dr. George Smith, who said earlier Wednesday night as many as 60 or 70 people may have died in the blast.

WFAA.com:

“I can’t confirm the number of casualties, but I can tell you that we do have casualties,” said Waco police spokesman Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton at a 4:35 a.m. news conference. “I can tell you that it is estimated anywhere from five to 15 at this point.”

At 4:15 a.m., West, Texas EMS director Dr. George Smith confirmed that two paramedics lost their lives in Tuesday night’s explosion at West Fertilizer Company. He said six firefighters remained unaccounted for.

1am EST 4/18/13 update via news conference

WFAA.com: 

“We do have confirmed fatalities, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman D.L. Wilson said at a midnight news conference, “We have a tremendous amout of injuries… over 100 injuries at this time.”

Wilson would not confirm or deny an earlier report that the number of deaths could be in the range of 60 to 70.

CNN.com: 

 Fire officials fear that the number of casualties could rise much higher — as many as 60 to 70 dead, said Dr. George Smith, the emergency management system director of the city.

Many of the major news agencies are reporting only 2 confirmed dead at this time. Below you will read about a local official claiming 60-70 reported dead. I will update with more information later.

More coverage available at STATter911.com as well as the links below.

WFAA.com:

A powerful explosion rocked the town of West, Texas, 19 miles north of Waco, on Wednesday evening.

“We’ve heard that figure of 60 to 70 dead that’s coming from the county’s emergency management office down here,” said WFAA reporter Todd Unger a short distance from the blast epicenter. “I can tell you that a couple of law enforcement soucres expect that number to go up.”

WacoTrib.com:

Several firefighters and others were injured in a fertilizer plant explosion in West shortly before 8 p.m.

Multiple buildings caught on fire, including West Intermediate School, 1212 N. Reagan St., after the explosion at West Fertilizer Co., 1471 Jerry Mashek Drive, and a dispatcher calling for ambulances said “we do have a lot of injured here.”

KWTX.com:

The explosion was reported at around 7:50 p.m. in a frantic radio call from the scene of the fire at West Fertilizer at 1471 Jerry Mashek Dr. just off Interstate 35.

The fire started in an anhydrous ammonia tank and spread to the building, authorities said.

Audio below from firefighterdispatch.

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