Fertilizer plant explosion levels several blocks of small Texas town

Some Volunteer Firefighters Unaccounted for After Blast

Friends, family confirm deaths of 3 West firefighters; Dallas Fire-Rescue says off-duty firefighter also killed

Thursday, Apr 18, 2013  |  Updated 11:32 PM CDT
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
Crews in West, Texas searched through the night for survivors and victims of Wednesday's explosion. Early estimates say between five and 15 people were killed. Authorities say they are still conducting a search and rescue operation.

AP Video

Crews in West, Texas searched through the night for survivors and victims of Wednesday's explosion. Early estimates say between five and 15 people were killed. Authorities say they are still conducting a search and rescue operation.

advertisement

The mayor of a Texas town where a fertilizer plant explosion injured more than 160 people said some firefighters who were battling a blaze when the blast happened aren't accounted for.

West Mayor Tommy Muska said Wednesday night that five or six volunteer firefighters were battling the blaze at the West Fertilizer Co. plant when the explosion happened just before 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Muska, a volunteer firefighter himself, was headed to the fire when the blast knocked his hat off and shattered the windows of his nearby home.

After learning of the explosion, Louise Mills drove to West from Ennis to check on her brother, Morris Bridges, who is a firefighter.

"He was the first respond for the West fire department, and we haven't heard from him since, and everybody is gone from the fire station and his car is still sitting there. We went to all the hospitals; he's not at any of the hospitals," said Mills. "I'm thinking he's died a hero; I really do."

On Thursday afternoon Mills confirmed to NBC 5 that Bridges died in the explosion.

He had three children ages 2, 17 and 18.

Firefighter Buck Uptmor's brother, Brian, confirmed that he died in the explosion. Uptmor, 44, is survived by his wife and three children.

Co-workers told NBC 5 that Jerry Chapman, 20, a volunteer EMS, was also killed in the blast. Chapman worked at the Black Eyed Pea in Hillsboro, and the restaurant is holding a fundraiser to help his family pay for funeral expenses. The rest will be donated to charity.

On Thursday, Dallas Fire-Rescue announced that Capt. Kenny Harris was killed in the explosion. Harris lived in West and was off-duty at the time but responded to assist, Dallas Fire-Rescue said.

"Capt. Harris' response is typical of all our first responders -- night and day, no matter where they are, no matter if they are on- or off-duty, they respond with the greatest acts of bravery," City Manager Mary K. Suhm said. "The city of Dallas and the citizens of Dallas have lost a real role model."

"Our hearts are heavy and hurting with the loss of such a great firefighter, great husband and great family man," Dallas Fire Chief  Louie Bright III said. "Dallas Fire-Rescue is wrapping its arms around the Harris family to provide comfort and support."

Authorities said an unknown number of people were killed in the blast, which leveled buildings for several blocks in every direction.

NBC 5's Ray Villeda and Eric King contributed to this report.


West Fertilizer Plant Explosion
Complete coverage of a massive fertilizer plant explosion that leveled blocks of the small Texas town of West, TX. Click here for more.

Get the latest headlines sent to your inbox!
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
Leave Comments
What's New
Get NBCDFW on Mobile!
Get NBCDFW's free news and weather... Read more
Follow Us
Sign up to receive news and updates that matter to you.
Send Us Your Story Tips
Check Out