Feds: Texas chemical plant explosion was a crime

Feds: Texas chemical plant explosion was a crime
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The major 2013 explosion at a West, Texas, chemical plant was a criminal act of arson, federal officials said Wednesday.

The conclusion came after an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), including a recreation of the explosion that ruled out all natural causes and put the blame on deliberate human activity.

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The explosion at West Fertilizer Co. killed 15, injured more than 160 and damaged more than 150 buildings. It resulted in state and national calls for reform in chemical safety rules, but no major changes have been made.

About 30 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer exploded in the incident, damaging or destroying much of the town.

“The only hypothesis that could not be eliminated is incendiary,” ATF agent Robert Elder told reporters Wednesday in West, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald.

ATF conducted more than 400 interviews and characterized the probe as one of the agency’s largest in history.

Initially, the possible causes included arson, electrical wiring problems and a battery-powered golf cart stored near the fertilizer. Investigators early on eliminated weather, spontaneous ignition, smoking and the rekindling of a previous fire as causes.

“We have never stopped investigating this fire,” Elder said. “It is our highest priority. We owe that to the victims. We believe we are on the right track.”

ATF is offering up to $50,000 for information leading to whoever was responsible for the disaster. The agents declined to say if they have any suspects in the case.