West Official Says Initial Missing Person Count Too High
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WEST (CBS 11 NEWS) – It’s been a frustrating couple of days for those who are waiting on word from their loved ones in the town of West. By Friday evening, 14 deaths were confirmed. Most of them are tied to fire and EMS teams responding to the plant fire.
Yesterday, officials confirmed the death of Kenny Harris, a Dallas firefighter who lived in West. Resident Debbie Hardwick, who also survived the explosion, said Harris heard about the fire, while having dinner with her daughter and son-in-law.
“They were just having dinner. They were making hamburgers, and he wanted to go check on them and make sure everyone was okay because that’s what he does, and he just did not make it out,” said Hardwick.
Jerry Chapman, a volunteer paramedic trainee also rushed to help when he heard the initial fire call. His friends said he dreamed of being a firefighter.
“He died doing what he wanted to do best. He was out there helping some people, just didn’t get to do it. He lost his life where it happened,” said co-worker, Sharon Matthews.
Others continue to search and wait for word about the status of their loved ones. Saul Saldivar, from Portland, Oregon, has not heard about his father, Mariano, who lived in the badly damaged apartment complex just yards from the West Fertilizer Co. plant.
“I’m just worried right now. Where he’s at. Has someone seen him?” said Saldivar.
An initial list of missing people contained the names of about 60 people, according to McLennan County Judge Scott Felton. At a Friday evening press conference, he said most of those people had been or would be found alive.
“May end up with one or two missing, but I can’t even say that. It could be that there’s no missing folks at this time.”
West Mayor Tommy Muska, who is now living in a hotel after his own home was damaged from the explosion, called the list misleading.
“We have a lot of displaced people. Not necessarily deceased. But displaced. So that’s what’s causing a little bit of interference with that list .”
Meanwhile, the owner of West Fertilizer Co. confirms one of his own plant employees was a volunteer firefighter and among the dead. Donald Adair released a statement saying his “heart is broken with grief for the tragic losses and that Wednesday’s explosion “will continue to hurt deeply for generations to come.” Adair said he and the plant management and employees are “working closely” with agencies investigating the disaster.
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