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People of West, Texas Pick Up the Pieces After Destruction


On Saturday, after what can only be imagined to be a surreal situation, citizens of West, Texas were allowed to visit their homes in the most damages part of the town after the horrific fertilizer plant explosion on April 17.

There was so much damage caused by this tragic accident, that although most residents survived with no injuries, almost everyone knows someone who died, was injured, or lost a home.

Dorothy Zahirniak was one who experienced both severe injuries and a loss of her home. She remembers, "When I heard the blast, I thought ' My God, what was that?' and then the ceiling fell down on me."

Another resident of West, Texas, Jean Smith, was allowed back to her home on Saturday morning. The first thing she did when being allowed to return to her home was call for her missing cat, Draco. However, it didn't take long before Smith notice the devastating damage to her home of 25 years. Smith said it feels so surreal, stating, "I'm wanting somebody to please wake me up from my nightmare, and et back to normal."

Unfortunately, Jean Smith and her husband, Dr. George Smith won't be waking up from this nightmare caused by the fertilizer plant accident, but will have to start rebuilding their lives again. Their wooden front door - white with rose trim and lead glass panels - was blown 10 feet into the entrance way and all the windows in the house were shattered. Portraits and paintings were all scattered around the floor in pieces.

The Smith's house was located in what area authorities dubbed Zone 3 - the region closest to the explosion. Despite being so close, the Smith's are lucky. Fifteen people were killed and the explosion injured another 200. As for the 157 houses in Zone 3, 70 are uninhabitable and another 84 are significantly damaged.

Many do not blame the fertilizer plant owner for the terrible accident, but others are seeking redemption for their injuries that the accident caused. When Donald Adair bought the plant in 2004 - to prevent it from closing - some residents expressed concern whether the plant was being properly supervised. Adair focused his attention on his farming operation, but left the General Manager, Ted, Uptmore - 80 years old - and other staff in place.

Law suits are beginning to pile up against Adair. Bridgett and Roger Bowles are among those claiming damages against Adair. According to their lawyers, Jason Gibson, the roof of the Bowles' house had been blown up and then slammed back down onto the house during the explosion. As a result, Bridgett suffered a broken jaw, a concussion, and a blown out eardrum.

Among the lawsuits filed thus far, two have accused Adair Grain Inc., a parent company of West Fertilizer Co., of negligence.