Officials recall scene of deadly fertilizer explosion

WEST, Texas – Mayor Tommy Muska remembers the deadly fertilizer plant explosion that literally rocked his small farming community of 2,800 in 2013.

The blast destroyed cars and homes, Muska's home included, and left a crater approximately 100 feet wide and 10 feet deep.

"Nobody in this town wanted this explosion to define the city of West," Muska said. 

The blast site where the West Fertilizer Plant once stood is now just a vacant lot, but the community of West has bounced back in the five years since the blast.

"A  lot of people have recovered, are back home, businesses are back open, the schools and baseball field is rebuilt, the nursing home Is rebuilt," Muska said.

The explosion claimed the lives of 10 firefighters, two first responders and three civilians. Some 200 others were hurt. Authorities said the fire was intentionally set and to date, no one has been arrested in connection with the deadly blast.

Muska said officials are still unsure of the long-term effects of the blast.

"We don't know what the long-term effects of this explosion has caused to people's brains, the PTSD, were going to keep focusing on that," Muska said.

West's Fire Department chaplain, Robert Payne, was one of the first people to respond to the explosion.

Payne was knocked unconscious during the explosion and woke up in the hospital. His last memory before waking up in the hospital, he said, was feeling cold.

"In a lot of respects it seems like a few seconds or a few minutes ago, and in a lot of respects it seems like a lifetime ago," Payne said.

As the city of West continues to move on from from the explosion, a cement memorial is being built to ensure no one forgets.

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