Brian Mechell of West took this photograph of the fire before the explosion, which was forwarded to News 10 by Tara Gerik of West.
WEST (April 19, 2013)—Donald Adair, the owner of West Fertilizer Co., where a massive explosion Wednesday night left 14 dead and 200 injured, issued a statement Friday expressing sympathy for those affected by the disaster and his appreciation for those who responded.
“As a lifelong resident, my heart is broken with grief for the tragic losses to so many families in our community. I know that everyone has been deeply affected by this incident. Loved ones have been injured or killed. Homes have been damaged or destroyed. Our hearts go out to everyone who has suffered,” Adair said in the statement.
“The selfless sacrifice of first responders who died trying to protect all of us is something I will never get over,” he said.
Adair said one of those who died in the blast was an employee who was among the volunteer firefighters who responded to the blaze Wednesday night.
He said owners and employees of the plant are working closely with the local, state and federal agencies investigating the blast that destroyed 50 homes, a 50-unit apartment building and damaged a nursing home and three of West’s four schools.
“We pledge to do everything we can to understand what happened to ensure nothing like this ever happens again in any community,” he said.
The plant has been cited and fined for apparently minor violations over the past 17 years.
Last summer the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration fined the company $10,000, but accepted $5,250 after corrective actions were taken.
The agency determined that West Fertilizer Co. planned to transport anhydrous ammonia without making or following a security plan and an inspector also found that the plant's ammonia tanks weren't properly labeled.
In 2006, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality cited the plant for failing to obtain or qualify for a permit after receiving a complaint about a strong ammonia smell.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which last inspected the plant in 1985, fined the company $30 for an anhydrous ammonia storage violation and cited, but did not fine, operators for four violations of respiratory protection standards.
In a risk management plan the company filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2011, operators said the facility did not have sprinklers and other safety devices required by the state.