Officials: 2 more bodies recovered in Texas explosion, death toll at 14

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by Associated Press & KHOU.com staff

khou.com

Posted on April 19, 2013 at 8:50 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 9 at 12:44 PM

WEST, Texas — A law enforcement official says two more bodies have been recovered in the wake of the Texas fertilizer plant explosion, bring the death toll from the blast to 14.

Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Jason Reyes did not say where the bodies were found but said more information would be provided later Friday.

He says the bodies will be sent to the Dallas County medical examiner’s office for identification. A Texas fertilizer plant explosion demolished surrounding neighborhoods for blocks and left more than about 200 other people injured, authorities said Friday.

At a noon press conference, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said 60 people were “still unaccounted for,” citing information from local officials. Officials said the missing could be among those in the hospital.

Even before investigators released a confirmed number of fatalities, the names of the dead were becoming known in the town of 2,800 and a small group of firefighters and other first responders who may have rushed toward the plant to battle a pre-explosion blaze was believed to be among them.

Reyes said he could not confirm Friday how many of those killed were first responders.

The mourning already had begun at a church service at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church the previous night.

“We know everyone that was there first, in the beginning,” said Christina Rodarte, 46, who has lived in West for 27 years. “There’s no words for it. It is a small community, and everyone knows the first responders, because anytime there’s anything going on, the fire department is right there, all volunteer.”

One victim Rodarte knew and whose name was released was Kenny Harris, a 52-year-old captain in the Dallas Fire Department who lived south of West. He was off duty at the time but responded to the fire to help, according to a statement from the city of Dallas.

Authorities spent much of the day after Wednesday night’s blast searching the town for survivors. Reyes said those search and rescue efforts continued early Friday.

Officials said they’re sending the remains of the 12 people found to the forensic lab in Dallas to be identified.

The name of one victim already has been released. Kenny Harris was a 52-year-old captain in the Dallas Fire Department who lived south of West. Dallas authorities say he was off duty at the time but responded to the fire to help.

Meanwhile, a dozen investigators from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board are inspecting the site of the blast.

A spokeswoman for the federal agency that’s charged with investigating chemical accidents says the group arrived in the small farming town on Thursday and was “inspecting the areas of impact” midday Friday.

The group includes fire experts as well as people trained in explosive modeling. They’re working to figure out what caused Wednesday’s deadly fire and explosion.

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