Filed Under:Risk, Loss Control

Authorities Launch Criminal Investigation of West Fertilizer Explosion

A criminal investigation has been launched into the West, Texas fertilizer plant that exploded last month.

The Texas Department of Public Safety says it directed the Texas Rangers to join the McLennan County Sheriff in an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the massive explosion of West Fertilizer Co. on April 17.

“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,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw, in a statement. “The citizens of McLennan County and Texas must have confidence that this incident has been looked at from every angle and professionally handled."

DPS says its Division of Emergency Management continues to work with local, state and federal authorities to assess damages and facilitate recovery assistance to the victims.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports a paramedic in West, Texas, has been arrested by federal officials for possession of an explosive device, but it was unclear whether there was in connection to the explosion last month at a fertilizer plant in the town, a source familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Blog: Doesn't Matter How West Fertilizer Dangers Were Revealed

Investigators confirmed ammonium nitrate was the trigger for the explosion at the fertilizer retailer that left 15 people dead and about 200 injured. 

The West Fertilizer Co. carried $1 million in liability insurance provided by United States Fire Insurance Co., a member of Morristown, N.J.-based Crum & Forster, which is part of the Fairfax Group. A spokesman for Adair Grain Inc., the parent company of West Fertilizer, says the company did not have excess or umbrella coverage.

The Texas Department of Insurance says four state agencies with some oversight of these types of facilities—State Health Services, Texas State Chemist, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and Texas Agriculture Department—do not require general liability a West Fertilizer-type operation.

The Insurance Council of Texas estimates insured property losses are $100 million. The total includes estimated insurance payments for the plant, 140 homes, an apartment complex, a middle school and a retirement center.

Several lawsuits have been filed against Adair Grain since the force of the April 17 blast leveled or damaged a large swath of the surrounding town. Multiple companies within the W.R. Berkley Corp. group of insurers are among those who have filed suit, claiming negligence on the part of the Adairs.

Also Read:

W.R. Berkley Attorney: Limited Coverage Held by West Fertilizer ‘Irresponsible’

 

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