The Washington Post

A bang followed by a startling shock in this new video of deadly blast in Texas last year

A new video from the massive explosion at a West, Tex., fertilizer facility shows the blast from a another angle.

One year ago Thursday, the facility in West erupted in a massive explosion and fire that killed 15 people and injured more than 200. The large blast, which registered as a small earthquake, spread debris for miles, destroyed 120 homes and damaged about 200 others.

West is still recovering. Nomaan Merchant of the Associated Press reports:

The signs of the town’s physical progress are obvious: Gone are the dozens of wrecked homes with tongue-in-cheek “For Sale!” messages spray-painted on their walls, and about 70 homes are finished or in the process of construction. Two new replacement schools and a nursing home will soon be built.

Merchant writes that the residents are “clear -eyed” about the challenges they face.

Holly Harris, whose husband, Dallas Fire-Rescue Capt. Kenneth Luckey Harris, died in the explosion, is among local residents who say they have chosen to push forward. They don’t want to dwell on unanswered questions, such as what sparked the fire or what firefighters knew going in — or what could have been done to prevent it.

“It’s just a choice that we’ve made that we’re not going to be sad,” she said before Thursday’s [memorial] ceremony. “I mean, we are sad at times, but we’re going to try to make everything a happy situation and try to get on with our lives.”

Hundreds gathered on Thursday at the small town’s fairgrounds to mark the anniversary. Rev. Terry McElrath spoke to the crowd. It’s hard to believe that in one moment, so much damage could be done,” he said.

A moment of silence was held at 7:51 p.m, the time of the blast, while images of the victims were shown on a large screen.

A woman cries while the faces of the people killed are shown during a memorial service on the one-year anniversary of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Tex. (LARRY W. SMITH/EPA)

The video’s tragic images are a reminder of what has been lost. This is why Jeff Tobola, who shot the video, waited a year after the blast to release it.

“It just wasn’t the time or place… I had a lot of friends that passed in the fire,” Tobola told CNN.

CNN also reported that Tobola and his son Mason were driving when they saw the flames.

“I went like, yeah, that’s a good sized fire, and so it just drew me a little bit closer,” Tobola said.

ABC News 8 reports the fire’s ignition only took a fraction of a second — only two frames of footage.

“You almost felt it,” Tobola told ABC. “It was almost like electricity in the air because you actually saw it before  it actually happened.”

“When it exploded, you could see the wave of the energy of the explosion actually like in slow motion … like in a movie,” Mason said.

While this is not the first cellphone footage of the explosion that’s been released, the new video gives another view of the disaster. After reviewing the footage for ABC News 8, Lt. C.T. Payne of the Garland Bomb Squad described the shock wave which followed the blast:

“What you’re seeing is as it’s coming off of it, that’s the shock wave that’s pushing out at the same time …You felt that wave of energy just right through you …There’s no doubt you felt that.”


Nick Kirkpatrick is the foreign photo editor at the Washington Post. Follow him on Instagram or Twitter.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.
Next Story
Fred Barbash · April 18, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.