West Fertilizer Plant Fire intentionally set, ATF has no suspects
It was a criminal act. That's the ruling from the ATF regarding the deadly blast at a fertilizer plant in West Texas three years ago. A dusty vacant lot is all that remains of what was the West fertilizer plant. Only a small memorial, across from the site, makes note of the catastrophic event that took place a little more than three years ago
On Wednesday, Federal and State investigators returned to the small town located north of Waco to announce that the disaster was no accident.
"The fire has been ruled as incendiary, this means this fire was a criminal act," said ATF SAC Robert Elder.
The fire and explosion on April 17, 2013 was recorded by a father and son who had stopped outside of town to watch.
It was so powerful it was measured miles away as 2.1 earthquake. The ATF determined the fire was set in the Seed Room. It burned for nearly 20 minutes before the fire set off 30 tons of ammonium nitrate stored inside.
According to the ATF, physical evidence was recovered from the scene. No one is saying specifically what analysts found although officials did say they were able to recreate the event in a Maryland lab.
"This actually was the largest build and burn at our fire research laboratory in ATF history I think there was some concern at one point we were going to burn our lab down," said Elder.
15 people were killed in the blast, most were first responders. McLennan County's DA, Abel Reyna, said he is not yet classifying the deaths as murder.
"There is so much about intent that we can't get into and can't answer. We need to find that person and then and only when a complete prosecution packet is prepared in line with that individual that we may find then you'll be able to make the call it's way too early to talk about charging decisions and things like that," said Reyna.
The blast caused major damage to several hundred homes, nearby businesses and schools. As a result Several civil lawsuits are still pending.
A lot of repairs have been made since the blast, but scars remain. The ruling provides a long awaited answer for those in this town but for some it also comes as a surprise.
"You can call it terrorist if you want to but I just think was a bunch of kids ... they probably didn't intend to blow the place up they just started the fire that's the way I see it," said Raymond Dulock who survived the blast.
In the neighborhood across the railroad tracks from the tracks, Lucille Lednicky said she is not bitter about what happened. She and her husband lost their home but not their lives. Regardless of the ATF ruling, she is just thankful they were able to escape.
"I just don't want to think about it that much anymore going through all we went through and everything."
Investigator say that they have interviewed 400 individuals since the explosion but they will not say if any them are currently considered to be suspects. A $50,000 reward is being offered.