Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced Friday afternoon that the search and rescue operation has ended now that responders have found 14 bodies. At least 11 emergency responders are presumed dead after the massive explosion and blaze at the West Fertilizer Co. facility near Waco.
At an afternoon news conference, Perry called the damage in West “pretty stunning.” The fertilizer facility had at least 540,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, Texas Health Department records show. That is 100 times more than what was used in the Oklahoma City bombing 18 years ago Friday.
Chris Barron, the executive director of the State Firemen’s & Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas, said his organization has calculated that 11 first responders died in West.
They are five West volunteer firefighters, a retired firefighter who assisted West, a Dallas Fire-Rescue captain who lived in the town and four emergency medical technicians, Barron said. He said some bodies recovered haven’t been identified yet.
Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Jason Reyes said the bodies were found “in the area” of the facility that exploded. He did not say how many were found at the explosion site and how many were recovered from surrounding buildings. Mayor Pro-tem Steve Vanek confirmed that five of West’s 33 firefighters, including the city secretary, died in the explosion
In light of the tragic event in West, Texas on Wednesday and in cooperation with local support efforts, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has established a national fund to accept monetary donations to assist the survivors and coworkers of the fire and EMS personnel who died in the line of duty.
Texas Department of Public Safety officials confirmed Friday the deaths of 12 people and injuries to about 200 more in the West explosion.
“It is with a heavy heart that I can confirm that 12 individuals have been recovered from the fertilizer plant explosion,” said DPS Sgt. Jason Reyes.
Reyes did not specify where, exactly, the bodies were found, or whether the victims were first responders. West Mayor Pro Tem Steve Vanek, a volunteer firefighter, confirmed West VFD lost five of its 33 members in blast.
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Thursday evening authorities began removing the bodies of what are expected to be 12 firefighters from the smoldering crater that was West Fertilizer Co. and more bodies of residents in the complex, said longtime West Justice of the Peace David Pareya.
The removal of the dead began in the evening with a private ceremony out of view of the media or public where other firefighters lined up as the bodies were brought out, Pareya said.
Police have confirmed that 12 people are dead and more than 200 were injured after Wednesday’s fertilizer plant blast in West.
The bodies have been sent to a forensics lab in Dallas for identification.
By the numbers:
200 injuries reported
150 buildings destroyed
50 buildings cleared by search and rescue teams
25 buildings yet to be cleared
3 fire trucks destroyed
1 EMS vehicle destroyed
We’re learning more about the firefighters who bravely responded to a massive fire at the West Fertilizer plant and lost their lives in the explosion. FOX4 has learned four victims have been identified as firefighters. One of them is from North Texas.
Perry Calvin worked as a volunteer firefighter from Frost in Navarro County. He worked alongside his father who’s the fire chief there.
Captain Kenny Harris was a member of Dallas Fire Rescue, Station 30. He was in West with his family and responded to the fire on his own.
It’s being reported there was an intense smell of ammonia before the fire and explosion.
West Volunteer Fire Department members quickly responded to alarms from the plant. They went inside to rescue the people right before the whole building blew up. A cause of the fire has yet to be determined.
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The names of the dead were becoming known in the town of 2,800, even if they hadn’t been officially released, as early as Thursday afternoon.
Believed to be among them is a small group of firefighters and other first responders who may have rushed toward the fire to fight it before the blast. At a church service at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church on Thursday night, the mourning was already starting.
“We know everyone that was there first, in the beginning,” said Christina Rodarte, 46, who has lived in West for 27 years. “There’s no words for it. It is a small community, and everyone knows the first responders, because anytime there’s anything going on, the fire department is right there, all volunteer.”
One victim who Rodarte knew and whose name was released was Kenny Harris, a 52-year-old captain in the Dallas Fire Department who lived south of West. He was off duty at the time but responded to the fire to help, according to a statement from the city of Dallas.