DFW was home to numerous compelling stories of tragedy and triumph in 2013. Here are 15 hard-to-forget stories from the area in the past year.
West Fertilizer Plant Explosion
A 7:30 p.m. on April 17, a small fire broke out at the West Fertilizer Co.’s fertilizer plant, a 13,000-square-foot building on the northeast side of West, Texas. Minutes later, a dispatcher alerted West’s 33 volunteer firefighters about the blaze. The fire grew until two explosions rocked the plant 20 minutes later. Twelve first responders, including emergency services technicians and firefighters were among the 15 casualties of the blast. Hundreds more were injured. More than 75 homes within a five-block radius of the explosion were damaged. The plant had a stockpile of anhydrous ammonia, which is used to make ammonium nitrate. CBS 11’s I-Team learned that a mixture of ammonium nitrate, the initial fire, oxygen and fuel may have triggered the explosion. The story garnered world-wide support and attention. Within days of the blast, President Barack Obama visited McLennan County. The town continues to rebuild. The investigation into the cause of the explosion remains open to this day.
An EF-4 tornado ripped through the lakefront town of Granbury on May 15, killing six people. Granbury, about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth, bore the brunt of the damage during an outbreak of 16 twisters, which tore though North Texas that day. The National Weather Service estimated the tornado in Granbury had wind speeds between 166 mph and 200 mph. Storms of that strength are extremely rare. In the last 50 years, North Texas has had only six EF-4 tornadoes, about one each decade.
Much of the devastation happened in the Ranchos Brazos Estates. More than 250 people were evacuated from the heavily damaged neighborhood and hundreds were injured or left homeless after the storm. It was the deadliest tornado outbreak in North Texas in more than 30 years.
Woman Falls From Texas Giant
Rosy Esparza, 52, died on July 22 after she was thrown from her seat on the Texas Giant rollercoaster at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington. The rollercoaster was closed immediately after her death but re-opened two months later with redesigned lap bars and safety restraints. Additionally, a test seat was added for riders to check if they fit properly before getting on the ride. Six Flags Entertainment Corp.’s net income tumbled 52 percent in the third quarter after Esparza’s death. Esparza’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the amusement park.
Troopers Indicted On Roadside Cavity Search
Two state troopers involved in a controversial roadside cavity search of two women from North Texas were indicted on criminal charges by a Dallas County Grand Jury. Dashcam video showed one of the troopers, Kelley Helleson, searching the two women inappropriately. The other trooper, David Farrell, was charged with theft after one of the women accused him of stealing her painkillers. The women were pulled over after troopers saw one of them throw a cigarette out of their car window.
City Council To Address Nudity Claim At Local ‘Breastaurant’
As the name suggests, Redneck Heaven in Lewisville isn’t exactly your average eatery. But waitresses wearing nothing more than body paint and pasties pushed the envelope too far, according to city officials. The Lewisville City Council voted unanimously to amend the city code to clarify that paint and similar substances aren’t enough to cover certain body parts, including portions of female breasts, at establishments without sexually oriented business permits. The so-called ‘breastaurant’ is featured in an MTV “reality” show called Big Tips Texas. It’s as titillating as viewers may expect from a ‘dramamentary’ featuring catty frenemies, drunken bartender ramblings and boring boot scootin’ Texas stereotypes.
Ted Cruz Talkathon And Presidential Aspirations
Tea party darling and possible 2016 GOP Ted Cruz spoke for 21 hours in the Senate in September. He talked all night and into the following afternoon, yielding only to fellow Republicans who posed long-winded questions so Cruz could rest his voice. The spectacle enraged many colleagues in both parties; making Cruz even more a hero among grassroots conservative activists.
Wendy Davis Filibuster
Democratic darling State Sen. Wendy Davis has had quite a year. She stood for nearly 13 hours during a filibuster that temporarily blocked new statewide abortion restrictions and was the first Democrat to make an official bid for governor in 2014. Hundreds of protestors rallied around Davis at the state Capitol during her filibuster. Davis gained national attention and a mention from President Barack Obama’s campaign Twitter account. Her Twitter following went from 1,200 to more than 20,000 overnight.
11-Year-Old College Freshman
An 11-year-old undergraduate student at Texas Christian University couldn’t wait to go to college – literally. Carson Huey-You is taking calculus, physics, history and religion. He is studying to work as a quantum physicist. He’s the youngest student the university has ever had. If Carson graduates as his parents expect, in four to five years, he will have a college diploma before or at the same time he gets his driver’s license.
Emmit Smith On New NFL Safety Rule
The NFL changed its rules in 2013 to prevent ball-carriers from initiating contact with the crown of the helmet. Former Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith had plenty to say about how he didn’t agree with the new rule. Saying those behind the rule change “absolutely lost their minds,” Smith said it doesn’t make sense for any position. He said the decision to change the rule was clearly made by people who have never played football.
Police Shoot/Kill Grandfather Responding To Burglary Call
A 72-year-old grandfather was shot by Fort Worth police officers investigating a burglary call in May. Jerry Wayne Waller was checking on his neighbor but didn’t even make it next door before officers gunned him down. The autopsy report shows the rookie officers shot Waller 7 times. His family released a statement claiming the Fort Worth Police Department misrepresented the details of the incident to the media. The family has since called for an independent investigation of what let to the fatal shooting. According to the a police affidavit, the officers responded to the wrong address on the burglary call. Both officers were placed on administrative leave.
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