Funny they used the word CRIMINAL versus TERRORISM. That tells me they are either covering something up or they have leads on somebody that worked at the plant already. Time will tell. -SF
DEVELOPING: Officials launched a hunt Wednesday for possible criminal suspects in the 2013 explosion that killed 15 people at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, after announcing the fire that triggered the blast was arson.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced a $50,000 reward for information. Officials said they had made no arrests.
The fire at the West Fertilizer Co. facility in April 2013 caused ammonium nitrate to ignite, triggering a massive explosion that killed 15, injured hundreds more and left part of the small town in ruins.
ATF officials in Houston said they conducted more than 400 interviews and that the investigation had cost some $2 million dollars.
“We have eliminated all reasonable accidental and natural causes,” ATF Special agent Robert Elder said. “This was a criminal act.”
Inspectors previously said three possible scenarios caused the fire: faulty electrical wiring, a short circuit in a golf cart stored at the plant, or arson.
In addition, federal regulators earlier issued a report that found inadequate emergency response coordination and training and careless storage of potentially explosive materials contributed to the blast. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board adopted recommendations that federal regulators set higher standards for safe handling and storage of fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate.
Federal regulators say the way the fertilizer was stored, with combustible materials nearby, and the lack of ventilation were contributing factors to the detonation. But they also cited a failure to conduct safety inspections of the plant, shortcomings in emergency response such as with hazmat training, and poor land planning that allowed development to sprout around the plant over the years.
Among those killed in the explosion were 12 emergency personnel, primarily ones with the West Volunteer Fire Department who responded to the initial blaze. The Chemical Safety Board report says the response to the fire was flawed for various reasons, including for not establishing an incident command center and a lack of understanding about the possibility of a detonation.
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