Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Now Criminal Investigation, Paramedic Arrested
A first responder to the huge explosion last month at a Texas fertilizer plant was arrested Friday for possessing a pipe bomb – but officials aren’t linking his arrest to the deadly incident. The probe, however, is now a criminal matter, they said.
The arrest Friday of a first responder to the deadly April 17 fertilizer plant blast in West, Texas, on explosives charges, is a new wrinkle that may call into question whether the incident that killed 14 people – including 12 firefighters and paramedics – was in fact a tragic industrial accident, as most people in the area believed.
Texas authorities arrested Bryce Reed, a paramedic with West Emergency Medical Services, at 2 a.m. Friday and have since charged him with possession of a pipe bomb. Mr. Reed was among those who responded first to the fertilizer plant explosion and served for a time as incident commander at the site. He was also shown giving a taped eulogy for explosion victim Cyrus Reed at an April 25 memorial in Waco, Texas, attended by President Obama.
Police have neither confirmed nor denied that Reed’s arrest is tied to the plant explosion. However, authorities said Friday that the Texas Rangers and the McLennan County Sheriff’s Department have launched a new criminal probe into the incident, with Texas Department of Public Safety chief Stephen McCraw pledging that the state will “leave no stone unturned.”
“Keep an eye on this story, perhaps especially on the federal involvement,” writes Hot Air blogger Ed Morrissey. “Until now, no one had intimated that this might be a deliberate act.”
On May 1, officials told a Texas House committee that they had interviewed 300 people and followed 160 leads during the investigation into what happened on the night of April 17. At that hearing, Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner said the investigation should be complete by May 10 and that the chance remained that the cause would be classified as “unknown.”
On Monday, investigators said they had ruled out weather and natural phenomena as causes of the blast, which happened about 20 minutes after a fire began tearing through a fertilizer and seed building on the property.
The Reed arrest and revelations of a new criminal probe raise questions about criminal mischief, even terrorism, given that the blast occurred two days after two bombs exploded near the Boston Marathon finish line, killing three people and injuring at least 260 others. In the West explosion, which registered 2.1 on the Richter scale, nearly 200 people were injured, and a nursing home, school, and dozens of houses were destroyed or damaged.
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The Associated Press reported that Bryce Reed, a Texas paramedic who helped evacuate people on the night of the explosion in West has now been charged with possessing bomb-making materials including a pipe and chemicals.
His arrest has not been officially connected to the West fertiliser plant disaster.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said in a statement: “This disaster has severely impacted the community of West, and we want to ensure that no stone goes unturned and that all the facts related to this incident are uncovered."
The McLennan County Sheriff’s Office was called earlier this week to a home near West where they found a pipe, a variety of chemicals and fuses.
They say the objects belonged to Reed, who didn’t enter a plea when he appeared in court Friday. Source