Casualty, injury reports remain hard to come by in West

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on April 18, 2013 at 11:34 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 19 at 10:15 AM

WEST, Texas -- All day Thursday the media in West, Texas been working to get accurate numbers on the injuries and deaths from Wednesday's explosion.

The State Firemen's and Fire Marshals' Association confirmed Thursday 11 first responders, including firefighters and EMS personnel, lost their lives, but because the scene remains closed and the plant remains volatile, an accurate number of all the victims may not come until Friday.

In fact, the bodies of many of those first responders are still on-site, too dangerous to reach.

Texas Department of Public Safety officials held several press briefings at the West Auction Building, which has become a makeshift media center. Two things they won't talk about: the number of fatalities and the cause of the explosion.

But they did tell News 8 the ravaged fertilizer storage facility is still a very dangerous place. Authorities described the scene as very volatile 24 hours after the explosion.

"It's because of the ammonium nitrate found at scene," said Chief Deputy Matt Cawthon of the McClennan County Sheriff's Department. "The TCEQ & EPA are going in to determine how dangerous it is for first responders."

West residents who survived the blast are sharing their personal stories of their brush with death.

Bryan Anderson and his nine-year-old son, Kaden, drove near the ant to get a closer look at the fire.

"It blew the car off the road," Anderson said. "We managed to drive a disabled car and get away from there."

Kaden needed stitches and had glass in his eyes. His father, while mourning friends and neighbors, considers his family blessed.

"I've lost some good people," Anderson said. "Everything I lost is monetary and replaceable. We can't replace lives."

While it's been very difficult to get a confirmation on the number of fatalities, DPS officials did confirm more than 160 people who were injured in the explosion were taken to area hospitals.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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