Continuing Coverage: West fertilizer plant explosion - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Continuing Coverage: West fertilizer plant explosion

WEST - Investigators have identified the epicenter of a fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people, and injured more than 200 other last Wednesday in West, Texas.

Now that the perimeter around West Fertilizer Co. has been searched and cleared, this week investigators will start concentrating on why the plant exploded.

The plant does not have a clean record:

-In 2006, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality fined the plant for failing to obtain a permit. The investigation came after reports of a strong smell of ammonia.
-In January 2012, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, cited the plant for transporting anhydrous ammonia in "unauthorized non-specific cargo tanks," and "failing to develop and adhere to a security plan."
-In February 2013,  West Intermediate School, located within a mile of the plant, was evacuated because of a fire at the plant. The fire was a controlled burn being conducted by the plant, but the school district, and local emergency dispatchers were not informed of the burn.
Many of those affected by the blast have still not given much thought to how the tragedy happened because most are still in shock.
Authorities allowed many residents to see the destruction of their homes Sunday, as the second of three damage zones was opened up. But Donna Heitmiller will not be able to see what is left of her house until the area closest to the plant is opened.
"I thought the Koreans had bombed us," Heitmiller said. "I thought we were gone and we couldn't move.We had stuff all around us."

Heitmiller's ceiling came down on her and her miniature schnauzer in bed Wednesday night when the blast rocked her home. She says shortly after the blast, she heard young neighbor screaming her name, and opened her eyes and saw the smoke-ridden sky above her.
She escaped the blast with no more than bruises and is grateful to be alive, but has no idea what the future holds for her and her neighbors.
"I don't know what I'm going to do. I really don't. I don't know what to think right at this point," Heitmiller said.
Heitmiller, and most of the residents NewsChannel 10 spoke with, say they are absolutely amazed with the influx of donations, love, and support from all over Texas that ensure her immediate needs are met. And as far as her leveled house, she has already filed a claim.
"The insurance has been amazing, Hocheim insurance. They've just been amazing," Heitmiller said.

But there's not much they can do until they are able to survey the damage.

State Farm agent John Farwell says his agency has received dozens of calls from customers, several of their homes leveled.

"Right now it's just kind of stand by waiting to be able to go in and help out," Farwell said.
Several scams have already surfaced in West including fraudulent insurance calls and contractors.
"Do not release any money to contractors I can not stress that enough," Farwell said.
Farwell recommends that even those with minor repairs to make on their homes, contact their insurance before hiring anyone to do the job.

 "They'll walk you through the process of what should and should not be done," Farwell said.
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