Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

April 18, 2013

WEST EXPLOSION: Family unhurt following devastating West blast

By Bob Belcher
Corsicana Daily Sun

— WEST — Ryan Janek and his family had just settled in for the evening at their home in West, less than a mile from the West Fertilizer company.

It was a typical small-town evening, that included a trip to the community center to pick up baseball uniforms for the upcoming little league season.

The calm of the routine evening came to a sudden end shortly before 8 p.m., when an explosion at the fertilizer company shook the town of 2,800 and send shock waves dozens of miles.

Janek’s reaction at first was not unlike that of many who felt the blast — it must be a storm.

He said the first waves were more like a vibration or “buzzing,” but what followed a few seconds later proved to be far more serious.

“All of a sudden our back door caved inward,” he said. “After a couple of seconds, the front door exploded off the hinges.”

The resulting shock waves also blew out several east-facing windows in the home, Janek said, including a room that served as a play room for his kids. Fortunately, they were gathered safely in the living room, he said.

“They’re always in that room playing,” Janek said. “If they had been in there they would have been seriously injured from flying glass.”

The “vibrations” and “concussion” lasted several seconds, he said, and the electricity in the home flickered.

Janek said the family gathered in the home’s laundry room — the “safe room” in the house — and began to pray.

“I thought that maybe the house had taken a lightening hit,” he said.

Janek said a few minutes later he went outside to assess the situation and saw several neighbors had done the same. Many of them had suffered damage in the blast as well.

The plume of smoke to the east in the direction of the fertilizer plant made it plain it was no storm, but a violent explosion that had rocked the house.

“We knew something serious had happened at that point,” he said.

Janek said he and his father-in-law heard neighbors talking about damage to a nearby nursing home, and had decided to head that way to see if they could help. However, at that point, law enforcement and first responders had blocked roadways leading to the explosion area, a precaution due to the possibility of hazardous fumes in the air.

Janek then took his family to his brother’s home a few miles away to keep them out of harm’s way, and he and his brother, a Dallas firefighter, returned to the community center with some generators and gasoline to help provide power in the event of another outage.

The community center had been turned into a staging area and treatment center for the injured.

“I was never in the military, but the best way I can describe it is a military zone,” he said. “There were helicopters swarming around, people with bandages on their heads and arms, people walking around with blood on their shirt ... it was kind of chaotic, but they had it under control.”

Janek said Thursday he hadn’t been back to his home to survey the damage — roadblocks still set up were keeping all but emergency responders from the area.

He said the outpouring of help and support was obvious.

“I saw six school busses from Hillsboro (a big ‘rival’ school of West) had come down to help out,” he said. “It just shows what this area is about.”

Janek expressed his concern for those who were killed or injured in the blast, and said he was grateful his family came through the incident unharmed.

“We’re very blessed,” he said. “You just don’t know if your house was a couple of blocks closer what the outcome would be. We’re very fortunate our little ones are running around this morning.”

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Bob Belcher may be reached by email at bbelcher@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “soundoff” on this story? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com