Two days after a massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Company rocked the small town of West, the number of fatalities is growing.
The State Firemen’s & Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas confirmed five West volunteer firefighters, one Dallas firefighter, four EMS responders and a police officer have died.
The SFFMA is a trade organization comprised of more than 1,200 fire, EMS, and international departments, including the West Volunteer Fire Department.
As search and rescue efforts continued in the small town of about 2,800 people, residents have turned to each other to help get through this difficult time.
Reagan Uptmore lost his uncle, Buck, in the explosion. “He was just trying to help with the fire and he ran up there at the wrong time I guess,” Uptmore said. “I stayed up till 4:30 looking for him.”
Uptmore’s friend Tyler Goode was at about three miles away at the First Baptist Church of West. “The fertilizer plant is north of our church. The north wall of our church caved in,” Goode said. “We stayed there for a little while to assist some little kids keep them under control so they’re not freaking out about their parents.”
Jason Lucien received a call from his grandmother after the explosion. She told him their house had blown up.
“I hauled butt all the way to West, and when I got there all I could see is smoke everywhere and people just panicking,” he said. “Everybody thought it was thunder, but that wasn’t thunder. It blew all the side walls in and blew out all the windows.”
Residents who evacuated West had not been allowed to return to their homes as of Friday morning, many of them destroyed by the explosion.
Bryan Anderson was driving in his pick-up truck with his 9-year-old son Cayden when the explosion occurred. He said the force of the blast moved his car and blew out his windows causing severe lacerations to his son’s face.
Fortunate that they survived Anderson said his thoughts are now with his neighbors who are still missing or have died. “I've lost some good people, but pray for them,” he said. “Everything I lost was monetary and replaceable. You can't replace lives.”