Texas Explosion Began in Seed Building, Investigators Say

The fire and explosion at Adair Grain Inc. that killed 14 people in West, Texas, involved ammonium nitrate stored in a building with seed and other fertilizers, according to state officials.

Investigators expect to complete a probe of the fire’s origin and cause of the blast a week or two later than first estimated, the Texas Insurance Department said yesterday in a statement. Adair Grain operated the plant in the city of 2,800 people about 15 miles (24 kilometers) north of Waco.

The fire broke out at the site at about 7:30 p.m. on April 17 and led to the explosion a short time later. The blast left a crater 93 feet (28 meters) wide by 10 feet deep below the 12,000 square-foot storage building. The plant was approved to hold 270 tons of ammonium nitrate, which has been linked to some of the deadliest industrial accidents and terrorist attacks, including the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, in which 168 people died.

Investigators haven’t determined what caused the initial fire, though they’ve ruled out the weather, anhydrous ammonium also stored at the plant and a rail car containing ammonium nitrate, said Rachel Moreno, a spokeswoman for the Texas Fire Marshal’s office. About 60 to 70 investigators are at the site and have conducted 411 interviews, she said.

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