Fertilizer plant explosion levels several blocks of small Texas town

Family Remembers Dallas Firefighter Killed in West Explosion

Dallas Fire Capt. Kenny Harris died in explosion at West fertilizer facility

By Amanda Guerra and Marc Fein
|  Monday, Apr 22, 2013  |  Updated 10:17 PM CDT
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Dallas Fire-Rescue Capt. Kenny Harris died in the West fertilizer plant explosion, his wife and three sons spoke to NBC about the legacy he leaves behind.

Marc Fein, NBC 5 News

Dallas Fire-Rescue Capt. Kenny Harris died in the West fertilizer plant explosion, his wife and three sons spoke to NBC about the legacy he leaves behind.

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Wife of Fallen Dallas Firefighter Speaks

Holly Harris remembers her late husband, Dallas Fire Capt. Kenny Harris, who died in the explosion in West.
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The family of a Dallas Fire-Rescue firefighter who was killed in a massive fertilizer plant explosion is remembering him as loving husband and father.

The blast at the West Fertilizer Co. on Wednesday killed 14 people, injured 200 others and damaged dozens of homes in the McLennan County town of 2,700.

Capt. Kenny Harris, 52, who lived in West, didn't think twice about rushing to the aid of those near the plant when a fire broke out.

"He was the personification of what a husband and a father should be, and he loved his boys more than anything in the world and he loved me more than anything in the world," said Holly Harris, his wife.

In an exclusive interview with NBC 5, she said she and her husband did everything together.

"And he was my best friend, and we were at the time of our life now," she said. "Our boys are grown and on their own, and we had so many plans of things we wanted to do."

Judd Harris, one of the couple's three sons, said his father's strongest quality was probably his strength.

"He never gave up, no matter what he was doing," he said.

Heath Harris, another son, said he remembers fishing trips with his father..

"It was just awesome to be around him," he said. "We had a fishing trip planned for next weekend on his boat. I was excited -- couldn't wait for next weekend, really.”

"If I had a weekend off, that was the first thing I wanted to do, was just tell dad to get a fishing trip planned," he said.

Holly Harris desperately tried to call her husband after the explosion.

"I started calling and calling his phone, and his phone would ring, and I thought, 'Well, he's busy. He's helping people,' because I knew they set up a triage area. And I thought, 'I know he's there; he's helping.'"

The hours passed slowly. Soon, word started to spread that dozens of homes had been destroyed, hundreds were injured and many were feared dead. By morning, his family started to lose hope.

"We slept a little bit, and I knew it couldn't be good after that long," Harris said. "We had gone to the hospitals to check and see if he was on the list, to see if he was on anybody's list, and he wasn't."

Their son, Jarrod Harris, drove from New Mexico after hearing about the explosion.

He and his brothers went to look for him.

"The boys said, 'We're going into town, and we're going to find out where he is,'" Holly Harris said. "They finally got some answers, and Judd's the one that called and said, 'Mom, they know where he was, and they said he didn't make it.'"

The brothers said Mayor Tommy Muska gave them the bad news. Jarrod Harris said it was surreal.

"He pulled us into a room, and that is when he gave us the news," he said. "My heart sank; I'm sure theirs sank. It crushed me then, but now it just don't seem real at all. It hasn't set in at all."

Like his father, Judd Harris is also a Dallas firefighter. If he had been off-duty, he would have been with his father. He said he hasn't once had any second thoughts about his chosen profession.

"[I'm] still going to keep doing it," he said. "I have to live up to my dad's legacy."

Holly Harris said her family will "be OK."

"We have a strong faith, and we know God will help us get through this and that this is a big legacy that their dad left behind," she said.

Funeral services for Kenny Harris will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday in West at St. Mary's Catholic Church of the Assumption. Visitation will be at the same church from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.


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.

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