A survivor of the West, Texas plant explosion describes the blast and what he saw and experienced as he escaped the area.
Shocked and bloodied eyewitnesses in the small Texas town of West described the overwhelming power of a Texas fertilizer plant explosion that killed between 5 and 15 people, injured scores more and caused extensive damage to dozens of local homes, a nursing home, and a middle school.
“The school’s gone, the apartments are gone,” resident Sammy Chavez, wearing a blood-soaked t-shirt, told reporters. He was sitting in his truck watching the fire when the sudden, ear-shattering blast sent shards of glass spinning through the air. “It’s just horrible.”
Other residents of the town of 2,700 ran from their homes after the blast filled the sky with a massive fireball around 8 p.m. local time on Wednesday.
Crystal Jerigan rushed outside her home about 15 blocks from the blazing West Fertilizer Company plant after hearing the sirens of emergency responders. She was in the driveway with her two daughters preparing to flee when the plant exploded.
“About the time that I got to the car, you could hear the boom and within seconds, it just sucked you in and just threw you to the ground,” Jerigan told TODAY.
Crystal Ledane shares the dramatic story and her concern for neighbors after her home was damaged by fertilizer plant explosion.
Another local resident, Derrick Hurtt, who was sitting in his truck with his daughter Khloey taping the burning plant, caught the moment of the blast on camera. He estimated he was at least 300 yards from the plant, but that was still too close.
In his video, Hurtt can be heard asking his daughter if she is OK.
“Please get out of here, please get out of here, dad please get out of here,” the young girl can be heard saying. “I can’t hear anything.”
“I’m pretty sure it lifted the truck off the ground,” Hurtt said on TODAY. “It just blew me over on top of her. It all happened so quick that things just kind of went black for a moment.”
Another bloodied, shaken resident, identified as local EMS doctor George Smith, told reporters: “There was just a major, major explosion. The windows came in on me, the roof came in on me, the ceiling came in. We lost all communication when the power went out.”
“The whole street is gone,” he added.
Even standing several blocks from the plant, residents said they were knocked back by the terrific shock that radiated from the plant explosion.
“A nearby nursing home is really bad, there’s an apartment complex and the school that caught fire,” Crystal Anthony, who serves on the town’s school board of trustees, told the Waco Tribune-Herald. “We’ve been moving patients out of the nursing home and taking them to the football field and gymnastics building on Davis Street.”
Other residents speculated about the cause of the explosion that wiped out homes and killed friends in the town about 20 miles north of Waco.
“It was a small fire and then water got sprayed on the ammonium nitrate, and it exploded just like the Oklahoma City bomb,” local hotel clerk Jason Shelton told the Dallas Morning News. “I live about a thousand feet from it and it blew my screen door off and my back windows. There’s houses leveled that were right next to it.”
“That whole side of town looks like a disaster,” Bill Manolakis told the paper. “Who in their right mind sticks a damn plant next to houses?”
Bill Bohannan was visiting his parents in one of the houses near the plant, and witnessed the devastating explosion.
“I said, ‘This thing is going to blow,’” as he hurried his parents into the car, Bohannan told the Waco Tribune-Herald. “I was standing next to my car with my fiancée, waiting for my parents to come out and [the plant] exploded. It knocked us into the car.”
“Every house within about four blocks is blown apart,” Bohannan said.
This story was originally published on Thu Apr 18, 2013 4:14 AM EDT