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Cause of West Explosion Undetermined

Cause of West Explosion Undetermined

After four weeks and nearly a million dollars spent, state and federal investigators still can't determine the specific cause of the massive April 17th fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer Plant.  The blast killed 14 people, injured nearly 200 others, and leveled dozens of homes and buildings.  The Texas State Fire Marshal's Office and Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have jointly ruled the cause of the blast as "undetermined."  "The 'undetermined' cause occurs when the cause cannot be proved to an acceptable level of certainty," says Kelly Kisner, Assistant State Fire Marshal.  While investigators don't have a level of certainty, they have narrowed down the possibilities.  "The causes that have not been eliminated are the 120-volt electrical system in the building, the golf cart (on the premises), and an intentionally set fire," says Kisner.

The possibility of an intentional act means criminal activity hasn't been ruled out, according to ATF Special Agent Robert Champion.  "Only the scene investigation is complete, but the remaining investigation continues," he says.  Champion acknowledged the recent arrest of former West volunteer firefighter and EMT Bryce Reed for possession of explosive materials, but stressed that there is still no connection between Reed and the plant explosion.  However, there are several factors that investigators have ruled out in the fire and blast, including the weather, smoking, water from firefighters causing a spontaneous ignition, rekindling of an earlier fire, and ammonium nitrate stored in a nearby rail car.

Champion says the number of hours and manpower involved in this investigation makes it one of the largest the ATF has ever seen.  "This ranks up with the Oklahoma City bombing, with the first World Trade (Center bombing), with the Pentagon.”  Governor Rick Perry released a statement on the investigation saying, "this tragedy has shown the world the definition of compassion," adding, "I send my continued appreciation to every state and federal agency involved."  Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz released a joint statement saying, "We appreciate the individuals and agencies who have worked to investigate the cause of the explosion.  Our prayers remain with those struggling to recover and mourning the loss of loved ones."

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