Criminal Investigation Launched for West Fertilizer Plant Explosion

Photo by REUTERS /POOL/LANDOV

Texas Department of Public Safety Sergeant Jason Reyes walks past the site of an apartment complex destroyed by the deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West.

Update: The State Fire Marshal’s Office says that there are now two investigations, one into the origin and cause of the fire, led by their office and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF); and one into any potential criminal activity, spurred by the arrest of West paramedic Bryce Reed for possession of a “destructive device” earlier this morning, which state officials say is not related to the West fertilizer plant fire and explosion.

In a statement, the Fire Marshal’s office says the following:

“Due to an unrelated investigation and the recent arrest of Bryce Reed by ATF on a charge unrelated to the West Fertilizer Plant fire and explosion, the State Fire Marshal’s Office will be partnering with the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Public Safety (DPS), and ATF to ensure that all potential facts and leads related to the incidents in West are investigated to the fullest extent.”

Original story: While an official investigation by state and federal agencies into the cause of the April 17 fire and explosion at the West fertilizer plant in Central Texas continues, a criminal investigation was announced today by the state Department of Public Safety (DPS). The West fertilizer plant explosion and its aftermath killed 15 and has destroyed nearly 150 homes in the small community north of Waco.

DPS Director Steven McCraw announced today that his agency is directing the Texas Rangers to work with the McLennan County Sheriff to conduct a criminal investigation into the explosion.

“This disaster has severely impacted the community of West, and we want to ensure that no stone goes unturned and that all the facts related to this incident are uncovered,” McCraw said in an statement.

The department said no additional information would be released at this time.

Earlier this week, the ongoing investigation into the origina and cause of the fire by the ATF and State Fire Marshal’s Office announced that they had concluded that ammonium nitrate stored at the plant was detonated in the explosion, but that the initiation of the explosion and fire before it are still being investigated. They had initially expected their investigation to conclude this week, but announced Monday that it will take longer.

Also in the news today are reports that a West paramedic, Bryce Reed, was arrested early this morning for possession of a “destructive device.” But it is not clear if it is in any way related to the fertilizer plant explosion. KUT News has more on that story.

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