The Texas Rangers and the McLennan County Sheriff's Department Officials are helping to conduct a criminal investigation into the April 17 explosion in West, Texas that killed 14 people and demolished hundreds of homes.
Although the incident was initially treated as an industrial accident, the two agencies were directed to conduct a criminal probe in order to make sure that all possibilities are considered, according to a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety. An estimated 60 investigators have conducted hundreds of interviews so far. The state fire marshal’s office said weather, natural causes, anhydrous ammonium and ammonium nitrate in a nearby rail car have been ruled out as possible causes for the explosion.
First responder had pipe bomb components
In a related development, a volunteer paramedic who had been at the blast scene entered no plea during an initial court appearance in federal court on Friday, after being arrested for possessing the makings of an explosive device. An acquaintance of 31-year-old Bryce Reed alerted authorities to the the materials, which included a galvanized metal pipe, fuse, end caps, coils of metal ribbon and explosive chemicals.
Reed has admitted to owning the components of a pipe bomb. His attorney denied that Reed had anything to do with the explosion.
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Texas issued the following statement: "At this time authorities will not speculate whether the possession of the unregistered destructive device has any connection to the West fertilizer plant explosion," the U.S. attorney's office for the Western District of Texas said in a release.
Reed was an early responder to the fire which preceded the explosion but reportedly was ordered to move back and serve as incident commander.
Curiouser and curiouser
He became a highly visible media presence in the aftermath of the disaster, giving interviews to the Dallas Morning News, Los Angeles Times and CNN, among other outlets. At a memorial service for the victims held at Baylor University, Reed delivered an emotional eulogy for a blast victim he claimed was his best friend, although family members of first responder Cyrus Reed (no relation) denied that the men were close.
Reed’s home was among those destroyed in the incident.
Reed works as a paramedic at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, but a spokesman for the hospital said he has been on leave since April 3. Sources report that Reed was relieved of his volunteer job with West’s emergency medical service on April 19th, two days after the explosion. No reason was given.