Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Death Toll Reaches 14

on April 20 2013 4:34 PM

The death toll of the epic explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. in the small Texas town of the same name on Wednesday appears to have been finalized at 14 on Friday, the Associated Press reported.

The two bodies discovered late Friday were sent to the Dallas County medical examiner's office to be identified, Texas Public Safety Sgt. Jason Reyes said, according to AP via CBS News.

West Mayor Tommy Muska, who is also a volunteer firefighter in the community of about 2,800 roughly 70 miles south of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, said 10 of the deceased were first responders, five were fellow West Volunteer Fire Department members and four were emergency medics.

"They saw some of their friends literally get blown up," Dr. George Smith, the manager of West's local ambulance service, told CBS News in a video interview. "Those were all friends of mine -- not just EMS people."

Speaking on Thursday, Smith told CBS News that six of his workers were unaccounted for at that time, leaving him to believe they were among the deceased.

Reyes said authorities had searched 150 affected buildings nearby, but that 25 were left unexamined, which could conceivably reveal more fatalities. The blast reportedly took out most or all of a 50-unit apartment complex, a nursing home, a middle school and as many as 65 residential homes. 

Firefighter Darryl Hall, a resident of Thorndale who helped with the building-by-building search in West, called the situation devastating.

"People's lives are devastated here," Hall said. "It's hard to imagine."

Officials estimated Thursday that as many as 15 deaths were expected to result from the blast.

The cause of the explosion that also left about 200 injured in thought to have been a fire. Officials have said no foul play is suspected, but they are still uncertain how the fire started.

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