The Companies Whose Fertilizer Blew Up West Say West Should Share in the Blame

In the year-plus since the West fertilizer plant explosion, the tragedy has made its way to where it was always destined: the courts. Around 200 plaintiffs, mostly people who had family members killed or property destroyed, have filed suits.

El Dorado Chemical Company and CF Industries are two fertilizer suppliers that have been hit with a barrage of lawsuits alleging their malfeasance, with victims arguing that the suppliers provided fertilizer chemicals that were unnecessarily dangerous. But the two companies are now fighting back.

In a recent motion, they argue that the city of West should be party to the lawsuits, since a state investigation has shown that the city failed to properly train its volunteer firefighters. They also claim that city safety standards failed to match other chemical plant regulations.

In a report from last May, the Texas State Fire Marshal's Office concluded that the explosion at the Bulk Processing Plant, which resulted in the deaths of 15 first responders, could have been prevented. The report highlighted a "lack of adherence" to national safety standards.

Plus, the companies argue, "The Texas State Fire Marshal also determined that strategies and tactics utilized by the WVFD were not appropriate for the situation and unnecessarily exposed the firefighters, many of whom have brought claims against the CF defendants in this matter, to extreme risks."

The report also pointed to a number of faulty organization strategies that could have helped in emergencies. Among these was that there were no supervising senior ranking members among the first responders, and the scene was "conducted in an unstructured and uncoordinated manner, without overall direction and without adequate supervision."

The city has employed Waco attorney Steve Harrison to field the suit. "The manufacturers of the fertilizer that blew up half of the town of West, killed 15 people, injured hundreds and destroyed homes and businesses have blamed the explosion on the West Volunteer Fire Department, a golf cart manufacturer and an imaginary criminal person," he told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "Some things really just don't need any comment."

The trials are scheduled to begin in July 2015.

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Emily Mathis