West officials open another damaged area to residents




Posted on April 21, 2013 at 6:10 PM

Updated Sunday, Apr 21 at 6:25 PM

WEST, Texas — This small Central Texas town that suffered untold damage when a fertilizer plant exploded on Wednesday let more residents in to see it for themselves on Sunday.

Officials opened up the second of three damage zones — north from Walnut Street to Spring Street — to property owners. A 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew continues to apply in the affected area.

A third zone that's closest to the epicenter of the blast remains off-limits to all but investigators and officials.

Cameras were permitted on a brief tour of Zone 3 on Sunday, where chunks of concrete were hurtled hundreds of feet; cars and buildings were destroyed; large trees were uprooted; and an apartment building had its roof and walls blown away by the shock wave.

Neighborhoods are slowly being reopened to residents, three days after the tremendous explosion that killed 14 people and injured more than 200 others.

Family friends spoke out at a news conference on Sunday, speaking about some of the first responders who lost their lives, including Jerry Chapman, a young volunteer firefighter.

Chapman family members stood alongside as a friend read a statement honoring his service.

"Jerry found his passion in his life, and his desire to live on the edge fueled that passion," said friend Steve Athey. "His faith in God and his fellow firefighters gave him the strength to lay down his life for others."

Several memorials and funds have been set up for the victims, including those first responders who were killed.

Investigators have yet to reveal any information as to what may have sparked the initial fire that led to a massive explosion.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com