WEST, Texas – The bodies of 12 people have been recovered after an enormous Texas fertilizer plant explosion that demolished surrounding neighborhoods for blocks and left about 200 other people injured, authorities said Friday.
Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Jason Reyes said it was “with a heavy heart” that he confirmed 12 bodies had been pulled from the area of the plant explosion.
Even before investigators released a confirmed number of fatalities, the names of the dead were becoming known in the town of 2,800 and a small group of firefighters and other first responders who may have rushed toward the plant to battle a pre-explosion blaze was believed to be among them.
Reyes said he could not confirm Friday how many of those killed were first responders.
The mourning already had begun at a church service at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church the previous night.
“We know everyone that was there first, in the beginning,” said Christina Rodarte, 46, who has lived in West for 27 years. “There’s no words for it. It is a small community, and everyone knows the first responders, because anytime there’s anything going on, the fire department is right there, all volunteer.”
One victim Rodarte knew and whose name was released was Kenny Harris, a 52-year-old captain in the Dallas Fire Department who lived south of West. He was off duty at the time but responded to the fire to help, according to a statement from the city of Dallas.
Authorities spent much of the day after Wednesday night’s blast searching the town for survivors. Reyes said those search and rescue efforts continued early Friday.