West blast undetermined, criminal investigation continues

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by Andrew Horansky / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on May 16, 2013 at 2:53 PM

Updated Thursday, May 16 at 8:49 PM

WEST, Texas—Federal officials say the blast that rocked a fertilizer plant in West carried the strength of 15 to 20,000 pounds of TNT. It left a hole that was 93-feet wide and 10-feet deep.

Investigators said combing the scene has been like an archaeological expedition, not unlike what they experienced during the Oklahoma City bombing, or on Sept. 11, 2001.

On Thursday, officials with the ATF and Fire Marshal’s Office spoke for the first time in weeks with reporters outside West High School.

They raised the official death toll to 15 and said the cause of the blast is still “undetermined.”

“This could be due to insufficient information, or if multiple causes could not be eliminated,” Chris Connealy with the State Fire Marshal said.

One of those causes may be a golf cart found in pieces at the scene. Officials said it may have accidentally sparked the fire. They are also not ruling out criminal activity, either.

At the same time, they are not talking about Bryce Reed, a 31-year old volunteer EMT from West who pleaded not guilty this week to the possession of a destructive device.

When he was arrested last week, court documents revealed he had bomb making materials.

“At this time, authorities will not speculate whether the possession of an unregistered destructive device has any connection,” ATF Special Agent Robert Champion said.

Before speaking to reporters, officials met with families affected by the tragedy at a church in West.

 

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