The site of the deadly April 17 explosion. (File)
AUSTIN (August 26, 2013)--Testing that could identify what caused the deadly April 17 explosion at the West Fertilizer plant is not scheduled until 2014, Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner told state lawmakers Monday.
Kistner said investigators still haven't ruled out that the blast was a criminal act, but he said chances are not great that they'll ever determine conclusively whether the electrical system at West Fertilizer Co. played a role in igniting the fire that led to the blast that killed 15 and injured about 200 others.
The explosion in West killed 14 people and injured 200 others.
Investigators determined that the fire that led to the powerful explosion was caused either by a battery-powered golf cart that was kept in the fertilizer and seed building in which the fire started, the building’s 120-volt electrical system or by an intentional criminal act.
Investigators recovered only a brake pad and an axle from the golf cart, which was not enough to allow them to determine whether the cart’s battery could have ignited the fire, but officials said there’s precedent for that happening.
Investigators determined the fire was not caused by spontaneous ignition, an earlier fire, a problem with the plant’s 480-volt electrical system that powered heavy equipment, anhydrous ammonia, ammonium nitrate, smoking or the weather, officials said.
As much as 64 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored in the building, 28 to 34 tons of which exploded, investigators said.
An additional 20 to 30 tons in the building and another 100 tons in a nearby rail car did not explode, they said.
In May the Department of Public Safety announced that DPS Director Steven McCraw had directed the Texas Rangers to join the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office in launching a criminal investigation of the blast.