No More Bodies in West Explosion

Posted at 3:39 PM, Apr 23, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-23 16:41:55-04

Authorities are confident no more bodies will be found in West and the death toll will stay at 15. Mayor Pro Tem Steve Vanek said this afternoon "No more victims.  Everything is searched" in the daily press briefing at West City Hall.

Vanek also said the south side of town has water than can be used for cleaning, showers and household uses, but not for consumption.  A boil order is still in effect for West.

The city has 100-thousand bottles of water for residents and Vanek encouraged people to use them.

We're also learning more about the investigation into how and why that fire started last week at the West Fertilizer Company.

Assistant Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner said some 70 state and federal agents are on the ground looking for clues, working from the outside in, or from the least damage to the most damaged.

TCEQ Chairman Bryan Shaw told a Texas Tribune forum in Austin Monday he suspected a rail car full of a fertilizer chemical started the fire and exploded, but Kistner Tuesday said that possibility has been ruled out.  "The rail car is not the cause of the fire and explosion, it's a victim," he said.

ATF Special Agent Robert Champion said his team measured the crater created by the explosion and it is 93-feet wide and 10-feet deep.

Experts do not know what chemicals were at the plant that day, or the quantities present.

The investigation is looking at four possibilities for what sparked the fire.  The first, a natural fire from an act of God or the weather, has been eliminated.  The fire could have been accidental in nature, incendiary (which means it was intentionally set) or have an undetermined origin.

Kistner said investigators interviewed between 60 and 70 people Monday trying to piece together clues.

While that probe continues, preparations for Thursday's memorial service to honor 10 fallen firefighters and two civilians are moving forward.  That public service at Baylor's Ferrell Center is at 2 p.m., with a firefighter procession beforehand at 11 a.m.

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara had a stern warning for protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, who have said they will be at Thursday's service.

"Make no mistake, any attempt by a group to disrupt the funeral services for victims of this tragedy will be dealt with swiftly and prosecuted to the full extent of the law," he said. 

 McNamara added he has the full support of District Attorney Abel Reyna on that matter.

City and county officials as well as representatives from federal and state agencies will be at a town hall meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at the West Knights of Columbus Hall to answer questions from residents about the recovery efforts.