2013 West Texas Tragedy Ruled A ‘Criminal Act’ [Updated]

A 2013 fertilizer plant blast in West, TX, that killed 15 people and injured 160 others was caused by a “criminal act,” federal officials said Wednesday.

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives revealed the findings of its investigation of the deadly fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. on April 17, 2013.

ATF Special Agent Robert Elder said the agency is offering a $50,000 reward to help find the person who committed the “crime,” which was determined to be the reason for the explosion after “we ruled out all accidental and natural causes.” But he couldn’t say why someone would have set the fire.

Visit NBCNews.com to read the full report.

UPDATE 10:55 am EST, 5/12/2016 – Emailed Statement from Bill Qualls, Executive Director, ResponsibleAg

“Based on this new information provided by the ATF on the cause of the West Fertilizer Explosion, it appears that this cowardly act that has caused so much damage to the lives of so many and has negatively impacted the public’s perception of the Ag industry, was intentional. ResponsibleAG is working to improve this perception by highlighting the successful safety programs that are in place while working to improve compliance programs for all size facilities.”

UPDATE via American-Statesman newspaper, 3:49 pm EST, 5/11/2016

The investigation is “headed in the right direction” said U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent Rob Elder, reports Asher Price and Jeremy Schwartz with the American-Statesman newspaper in Austin, TX.

“We’re on the right path,” Elder told the American-Statesman. “We’re asking for the public’s help in getting across the finish line.”

Elder said he is not prepared to name a motive.

“Why the fire was set I don’t know,” he said at a news conference. “I can’t say what their intent was.”

He said investigators came to their conclusion over several months. Investigators spoke with over 400 people and ruled out accidental and natural causes in an investigation that is estimated to have cost $2 million.

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