AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — An investigation should be finished within the next two weeks into what caused a massive explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant that killed 14 people, state authorities said Wednesday.
Texas State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy told lawmakers during a legislative hearing that his office is targeting May 10 for investigators to complete their probe into the origin and cause of the fire and explosion at West Fertilizer Company Authorities have not hinted what might have caused the blast April 17 in the rural farming town of West.
State records reportedly show the fertilizer plant had a yearly capacity of 2,400 tons of potentially explosive ammonium nitrate.
Most of the dead were firefighters and paramedics, and about 200 other people were injured.
“We literally have to sift through all the soil — all the items that exploded out of the plant, collect those, try to reconstruct the facility,” Connealy said. “We are well down that path. But (May 10) is an approximate date. Don’t hold us to that.”
Connealy raised the possibility that authorities might never uncover the cause, but expressed hope that a team of 80 investigators that have conducted 300 interviews would make a determination.
“Everything will be touched. It will be analyzed and it will be looked at,” he said.
Connealy said investigators are combing through a 14.9-area and compared the work to an archaeological dig. They are also doing 3-D imaging to obtain an accurate measurement of the crater that’s estimated to be 10 feet deep and 93 feet wide. He said the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has so far spent $500,000 on the investigation and expects that price tag to double.
Lawmakers hauled the fire marshal before the state House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee in the first hearing at the Capitol since the explosion. Leaders of several other state investigative and regulatory agencies also testified about their role monitoring the West plant and similar facilities statewide.
(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
Also Check Out: