Authorities in Texas today announced that the cause of the deadly fertilizer plant explosion in the small town of West has been determined to be... undetermined. At the moment, anyway. There are three causes they cannot yet rule out: an intentional act, an issue with the plant's electrical system, and a golf cart.
State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy briefed reporters on the state of the investigation into the blast, which killed 15 people and damaged the surrounding 37 city blocks in West and left a 93-foot wide crater in the ground.
He and a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent declined to comment on the arrest of paramedic Bryce Reed, who was charged last week with possessing an explosive device. Authorities have not yet said whether they believe Reed, who has been accused of erratic behavior before and after the blast, is related to the explosion in some way.
Authorities said that they all that was left of the golf cart after the blast was a brake pad and an axle, but since golf carts have a history of causing fires, they are looking into whether that was a cause. They ruled out several other causes, including smoking or lightning. In addition, they said that water from firefighters did not ignite the ammonium nitrate at the plant.
Speaking of which, they said between 28 and 34 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded there, which is equivalent to about 20,000 pounds of TNT. A total of 150 tons of ammonium nitrate were found onsite, and while that number is lower than what was reported previously, it is still far more than they were allowed to have.
Officials declined to comment on the code and regulatory issues related to the explosion.