Time for Media Talking Heads to Get Out of Boston and Head Down to Texas

Firefighter conduct search and rescue of an apartment destroyed by an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, Thursday, April 18, 2013.

Firefighter conduct search and rescue of an apartment destroyed by an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, Thursday, April 18, 2013.

I don’t watch much television, but tonight I turned on CNN for awhile. I was surprised to find that there were still numerous national reporters standing around in Watertown and Boston doing live stand-up reports. Why? The story is pretty much over at this point. What remains is mostly legal stories. Those don’t require on-sight reporting by media stars. Is it just the label “terrorism” that is keeping the national media focused on Boston?

Meanwhile, on Thursday there was a horrific disaster in the small town of West, Texas when a fertilizer plant exploded, killing 14 people, injuring 200, and destroying a school, a nursing home–basically about half of the small town. Hundreds of people in West are now homeless and desperately in need of help.

On CNN’s home page tonight, I could find only one prominently placed story about the Texas disaster: Texan town tries to rebuild with community, spirituality

Search and rescue efforts have evolved into search and recovery efforts, because officials don’t expect to find any more victims in the wreckage — alive or dead.

The explosion at West Fertilizer’s plant ruined much of the north side of town, and left hundreds of people injured, homeless and in need of help.

On television nationally, the scope of the tragedy was overshadowed by the dramatic events in New England, as investigators there pursued leads in the Boston Marathon bombing investigation, then pursued their suspects.

No kidding.

A sign is seen on a car window as residents wait to enter a damaged neighborhood Saturday, April 20, 2013, three days after an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas (Houston Chronicle)

A sign is seen on a car window as residents wait to enter a damaged neighborhood Saturday, April 20, 2013, three days after an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas (Houston Chronicle)

But many Texans kept their focus on the great need close to home. Long lines of cars streamed by the community center, dropping off food, water and other rations throughout the weekend. Numerous church groups and restaurants handed out hot meals.

“These are our neighbors. They are coming to help,” Waco Police Department Sgt. William Patrick Swanton told reporters. “You will find that in Texas. You will find that across the United States. We put everything aside when it comes to these types of situations.”

The nine first responders from West who died battling the blaze represented nearly one-third of the town’s volunteer firefighting and EMT force. The fire destroyed two fire trucks and an ambulance. Firefighters and trucks from neighboring communities now fill the void at the West firehouse.

Another piece at CNN dated April 19, 11:41 PM lists “Five stories you may have missed during Boston bombings.” The list doesn’t include the Texas explosion!

There are plenty of national stories to be covered in West, Texas right now. For example, the fact that the feds had no clue of the danger that lurked inside the West Fertilizer Co. plant. The Houston Chronicle reports:

The Department of Homeland Security, the federal agency charged with regulating the highly explosive substance ammonium nitrate, wasn’t aware that West Fertilizer Co. stored 270 tons of ammonium nitrate – 1,300 times the threshold that triggers federal oversight.

But the small company did submit the information to another government agency – the Department of State Health Services.

Had federal officials been aware of the information contained in the state disclosure, DHS officials might have inspected the facility and required safer storage.

The patchwork of local, state and national laws regulating fertilizer facilities remains at the heart of the investigation into the deadly explosion that claimed 14 lives in the tiny Czech community of West. Saturday, company officials were unavailable to explain why they had not complied with DHS rules, promulgated in the last five years, requiring the disclosure of such a large quantity of ammonium nitrate.

Since 2006, the company complied with state agencies overseeing air emissions and product quality, but no state agency had the legal authority to inspect and enforce safety measures at the plant.

That is huge news! How many other industrial plants are there around the country with safety issues about which federal agencies have no knowledge? Time for the national media to get busy finding out the answer to that question.

I’m not going to go on and on about this; I think I’ve made my point. But here are a few more stories about the Texas disaster.

Huffington Post: Derrick Hurtt, West, Texas Resident, Describes Plant Explosion: ‘You Think You’re Dead’ (VIDEO)

Derrick Hurtt, a lifetime resident of West, Texas, says the major plant explosion that rocked his small hometown last week left him feeling for a split-second like he had died.

Hurtt caught the deadly blast on a cell phone camera a couple of blocks away, creating a video that ultimately went viral. The explosion at West Fertilizer Co. last week left at least 14 people dead and hundreds of others injured. Hurtt described his harrowing experience to the Waco Tribune Friday.

“It was pitch-black. You think you’re dead,” he said. “And then that mushroom sucked all the darkness back into the cloud, all that black smoke. In the daylight, you realize that you’re not dead.”

NY Daily News: Some stranded families allowed to return after West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion

Stranded families growing weary and frustrated since a deadly Texas fertilizer plant explosion left them barricaded from their battered homes finally began returning Saturday, but only under a curfew and strict warnings to not wander beyond their own yards.

Authorities gave the much-awaited okay after a nervous morning. Emergency workers had told residents packed in a hotel — waiting for updates about their neighborhood — that leaking gas tanks were causing small fires near the blast site, keeping authorities from lifting blockades.

Officials quickly emphasized that the fires were contained and the town of West was not in danger. They later repeated that message as evacuees in a mile-long line of cars inched along a downtown road and toward the blast radius, although the chances that most would get to their houses Saturday night dimmed as a 7 p.m. curfew approached.

Miami Herald: 4 more first responders killed in Texas blast ID’d

On Sunday, professional organizations and family and friends identified four more of the first responders who died: brothers Doug and Robert Snokhous, who were both firefighters with the West Volunteer Fire Department; Jerry Chapman, a firefighter with the Abbott Volunteer Fire Department; and Kevin Sanders, who worked with West EMS and another area volunteer fire department.

Heartbreaking. The town didn’t even have a fire department–these were volunteers! Another report from the Miami Herald:

Buck Uptmor didn’t have to go to West Fertilizer Co. when the fire started. He wasn’t a firefighter like his brother and cousin, who raced toward the plant. But a ranch of horses next to the flames needed to be moved to safety.

“He went to help a friend,” said Joyce Marek, Uptmor’s aunt. “And then it blew.” [….]

The dead included Uptmor and Joey Pustejovsky, the city secretary who doubled as a member of the West Volunteer Fire Department. A captain of the Dallas Fire Department who was off-duty at the time but responded to the fire to help also died.

The explosion was strong enough to register as a small earthquake and could be heard for many miles across the Texas prairie. It demolished nearly everything for several blocks around the plant. More than 200 people were hurt, and Muska said five first-responders were among those who remained hospitalized Friday.

The first-responders “knew it was dangerous. They knew that thing could go up at any time,” said Ronnie Sykora, who was Pustejovsky’s deacon at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church. “But they also knew that if they could extinguish that fire before it went up, that they could save tens of lives, hundreds of lives. That’s why they were in there.”

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Investigators describe West explosion as a wave of destruction

WEST — On the grass outside the shredded apartment complex sat several large chunks of concrete, basketball-sized pieces of shrapnel that were sent flying by the force of Wednesday’s fertilizer plant explosion.

Officials said the concrete and other pieces of projectile had once been part of the West Fertilizer Co., which exploded about 20 minutes after a fire broke out early that evening….

When the explosion occurred, investigators said the blast radiated outward, slamming into a nearby railroad track berm. The explosion’s force was deflected upward by the berm before rushing back down to pummel the apartment complex, a nursing home and West Intermediate School and eventually moving into neighborhoods.

“The easiest way to describe it is think of a wave going out and it may come up and down with it,” said Kelly Kistner, said assistant State Fire Marshal.

The destruction from the blast spread over a 37-square-block area of West that was described as a “war zone” by Brian Hoback, the National Response Team leader with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The story says that today “a handful of reporters and photographers were allowed to see some of the areas that were hit the hardest by the explosion…” A handful of reporters? Why weren’t there well-known national broadcast reporters down there doing live stand-ups?

Here’s another story they could be covering. The actual cause of the explosion is still unknown, according to NBC News.

Investigators have located the spot where the horrific Central Texas fertilizer plant explosion occurred but do not yet know what triggered the deadly blast, town officials said Sunday.

West, Texas, fire officials said at a news briefing that there is no evidence of criminal activity in last Wednesday’s massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Co., and that there are no longer any fires burning at or around the decimated facility….

A fire official announced the city has identified the “seat” — origin — of the explosion, but did not specify the exact site.

“We do have a large crater,” Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner said.

The national media should be down in Texas finding out what the hell happened and holding federal agencies responsible for their failures–not to mention Congress and Texas state officials who have fought against government regulations on businesses. Besides I really want these bozos out of Boston. I can’t imagine how Dakinikat has put up with all these folks swarming around New Orleans over the past several years. They are driving me nuts!

President Obama should go down there too, and if he doesn’t I’d sure like to know why.

42 Comments on “Time for Media Talking Heads to Get Out of Boston and Head Down to Texas”

  1. List of X says:

    Maybe the people running the national media fear finding out that it was the lack of safety regulations (or compliance with them) that led to the explosion. “We need more regulation” is not a story most right-leaning media organization would be eager to run.

    • bostonboomer says:

      That is definitely one of my concerns. But we should pressure them to cover it.

      BTW, I was going to focus a post on the head of the fertilizer company, but it turns out he’s just a local man named David Adair who has owned the plant for about 7-8 years.

      • List of X says:

        I did not know it was a local owner. All the more reasons for him to run the plant safely, because now he’ll have to look in the eyes of relatives of those who died.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Did you read the article? I’m not defending him, but he sounds devastated. His son broke down sobbing on the phone with reporters. They have lived their whole lives in West. The feds and the state didn’t do their jobs.

      • BB, I live in a small town, where there are main businesses run by men who pretty much own the town. I have seen these men first hand and how they act when I worked at the attorney’s office….they act so caring and understanding and then when the person they were trying to deal/swindle with was gone, then they become a tyrant. It is quite a transformation. I’ve seen this at funerals too. The same men. It is disgusting to see. So I just have a hard time accepting any big company owner’s behavior on the surface…but that is just my experience, from working with lawyers and these asshole executives.

      • bostonboomer says:

        You’re probably right, JJ. I plan to keep following this story.

    • dakinikat says:

      They don’t to go to the middle of bumbfux america. They hate the great flyover and aren’t interested in it. That’s my 2 cents.

      • RalphB says:

        Your 2 cents are dead on! The entertainment options are few around West, But it’s also true they might have to report an unsettling story about lack of regulation and that would make for bad beltway cocktail party chatter,

  2. bostonboomer says:

    A little Boston news–sorry, but could be important. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is awake and answering questions in writing.

    • Fannie says:

      I see the push (Per NY Times ) from Graham, & McCain,King to list him as enemy combatant.
      Dare I ask is he was charged?

      Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had thought the supreme court ruled that combatant detainees have right to present their cases to the Federal government in DC, and not in the military courts…………I think that was 2004………………..who are the interogators asking questions, I just have a feeling secrecy and trickry will be used, and we will never know.

      It would appear the questions are in regards to more bombs, supplies, and other groups who might be involved, etc.

      This is a test, repeat, testing, testing.

      • bostonboomer says:

        The authorities have been allowed to question him yet. He’s not well enough. He’s probably just talking to medical people. He will be charged. He’s can’t be named an enemy combatant, for very obvious reasons.

        But I won’t argue about it. I already got too upset this morning. I’m not handling the attacks on my city very well. First the violence, and now people expecting our local law enforcement to act like Nazis.

    • roofingbird says:

      I head Mayor Menino note that MA doesn’t have a death penalty and so he hoped the Feds would handle the case. I didn’t like the sound of that. It’s hard enough to keep the death penalty off the docket without that kind of pressure.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I’m sorry I put up that link. This post is about the Texas disaster. It’s not an open thread. I’d really appreciate it if people would stick to the topic of this post.

      • bostonboomer says:

        For the record, here’s what Mayor Menino said.

        MENINO: I hope that the U.S. attorney, Carmen Ortiz, takes him on the federal side and throws the book at him. These two individuals held this whole city hostage for five days. They should not do that — that’s what these terrorist events want to do, hold the city hostage and stop the economy of the city. Look at with what happened on Friday, the whole city was on lockdown, no businesses open, nobody was leaving their homes. There was not business being held at all.

        And that’s what these events are about, stopping the economy of America. And we have got to stop that. We have got to move forward. We’re a much stronger city than what we want to be. We’ll be even better as we move forward.

        And it just frustrates me that we have these events going on in our country today. And Americans have to wake up. We got fear of terrorism. Our lives are changed forever. We have to work hard on these issues.

        Where does he say he wants the feds to prosecute because of the death penalty? There will be both federal and state charges.

      • roofingbird says:

        Ok BB.

        You know what I think about the West disaster, but I’ll say it again. There aren’t enough inspectors. The unions aren’t strong enough and states like Texas are culpable for failing to protect the populace. It isn’t good enough to let the different agencies simply point fingers at each other.

        I suppose it’s a prejudice showing, but all those companies who left CA for TX in 2009 went there for two reasons, cheap land that doesn’t have to be cleaned up first, and lax rules and regulations. The cry about taxes was just a canard because it’s taxes that pay for inspectors.

        Some have recorded that previous violations were apparently cited before this owner to possession of the plant, if the last one was in 2006. As was noted, Adair became owner 7-8 years ago. That being said, this owner is going to get slammed, but the Texas environment allowed this horribleness to happen.


        Others are saying that as recently as 2012 this plant was fined.


        Both federal and state should have OSHA, like in CA, and there should be more. And you can’t tell me that someone in the transportation industry didn’t know that stuff was there.

      • roofingbird says:

        And the other thing is, everyone who works in a plant like that has a responsibility to know the rules. IF YOUR EMPLOYER IS STOCKPILING DANGEROUS CHEMICALS, CALL OSHA.

        Then they will come out.

  3. dakinikat says:

    I still can’t believe Cruz expects us all to bail out this preventable mistake of business when he thing victims of a hurricane deserve nothing.

  4. Joyce L. Arnold says:

    Thanks very much for posting this. I live about 75 miles from West, to the south, and so have been able to follow on local news. Coverage of Boston and of the disaster in West shouldn’t be an either / or thing. Locally, questions about the failure of oversight, and the lack of funding for agencies who are suppose to provide such oversight; the apparent fact that West Fertilizer operated for the last couple of years without a permit; the proximity of the fertilizer plant to schools and residential areas, including a nursing home and an apartment complex, and more, have been in the news. Of course, the attention was first to the disaster itself — the fact that the death total was 14 (most of whom were volunteer first responders, fighting a fire at the plant), and not much higher, is near miraculous. Some 200 treated for injuries, ranging from serious to minor. Fifty or so homes destroyed.

    The deaths and many injuries in Boston are horrible. So are those in West. The first are the result of direct actions. The second are indirect, but the deaths and destruction are just as real.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks so much for reading my post, Joyce! I agree it shouldn’t be an either/or thing, but the TV news people only seem to be able to focus on one thing at a time. There’s really nothing left to cover in Boston that requires the talking heads to be here in town.

    • RalphB says:

      Hi Joyce, We’re practically neighbors, for TX, I’m about 110 miles south of West. I question whether the plant was there before the apartment building etc were built.

      • Joyce L. Arnold says:

        “Neighbors” indeed.

        According to interviews with residents of West, the plant was built 50 years ago. The residential area, schools, etc., were built after that. Questions of regulation are obviously being asked.

      • bostonboomer says:


        Wikipedia says the plant has been there since 1962. I don’t know about the surrounding buildings.

        It also says the company filed info with the EPA in late 2012 about the anhydrous ammonia they had on hand. Why that didn’t get reported to Homeland Security, I don’t know. But something is very wrong. Local officials should have been told about it too. I wonder how many other plants like this there are across the Midwest and West?

      • RalphB says:

        I have the horrible feeling there are lots of towns with very similar conditions to those found in West all over flyover country. It’s past time local governments looked.

  5. I am sorry this is OT but goddammit if it hasn’t happened again: Michigan High School Protects Student Athlete at Expense of Rape Victim

    Last week the National Women’s Law Center, along with a local law firm in Michigan filed a complaint in federal district court on behalf a high school student who was sexually assaulted at school by a fellow student and star basketball player. In many ways the story echoes the tragic high school rape story from Steubenville, Ohio, which should lead all of us to ask just what kind of culture are we raising our children in, and what kind of culture is being cultivated at our high schools?

    According to the complaint, in 2010 the victim was sexually assaulted by a star player on the school’s basketball team. The assault took place on campus in a sound proof band room at Forest Hills Central High School. The victim notified a teacher who in turn reported the assault to the principal. But rather than open an investigation into the allegations, the principal discouraged the student and her parents from filing charges, telling them that doing so could ruin the assailant’s prospects at being recruited to play basketball for a Division 1 school.

    The victim and her parents ignored the principal’s request not to file charges because they were concerned that this student might attack other girls. Instead, the student and her parents filed a police report, and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department began a criminal investigation. Meanwhile, the school did nothing.

    As alleged in the complaint, two weeks later another female student was sexually assaulted by the same attacker. Despite a legal obligation under Title IX to investigate the assault and protect the student, the high school officials never interviewed the girl or her parents again, failed to conduct an investigation, and for two and a half weeks left the attacker in one of her classes.

    same old shit again.

    • It gets worse. As word of the sexual assault spread among the student body, the female victim became the target of an intensive cyber-bullying and harassment campaign—both at school and online—that depicted her as a liar and a “whore” who was trying to bring down an innocent athlete. These cyber-attacks were only reinforced by the fact that the school continued to take no action to reprimand the male student. Not only did fellow students harass the victim, the attacker and his friends verbally and physically harassed the girl as well. They followed her around as she moved in and out of classrooms, through hallways, and around the school campus. The attacker sometimes pushed her into other students as she walked down the hallway, causing her to slam into lockers. Despite repeated efforts by the victim’s parents and other students to alert the principal and the school’s Title IX Coordinator about the viciousness of the harassment by the attacker and other students, school administrators took no action.

      Thankfully law enforcement did. Five weeks after the sexual assault, the Kent County Prosecutor’s office authorized two felony counts of criminal sexual conduct against the attacker for his assaults on NWLC’s client and the second female victim at the school. The attacker later pled guilty to a single count of misdemeanor assault and battery. He was sentenced to attend Kent County’s Adolescent Sexual Offender Treatment Program for a second time. The only sanction the school imposed upon the student assailant was to temporarily bench him on the basketball court.

  6. Hey BB, Fox News says no criminal activity caused the explosion: Residents of town in Texas fertilizer plant fire go home, as police find no evidence of crime | Fox News But wait…that’s not right. I thought there was a shit load of explosive ammonium nitrate? over the legal limit for the DHS?

    • roofingbird says:

      Can’t top that observation.

    • RalphB says:

      But wait, this is Amurika where businesses have no enforced legal limits.

      • Take a look at this: Will the “Koch Brothers Bill” Make Industrial Accidents More Likely? | Mother Jones

        Last Wednesday’s explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant, which left at least 15 people dead and more than a hundred injured, was made possible by an ultra-lax state- and federal oversight climate that make inspections of such facilities all but a rubber-stamp process—when they even happen. If the chemical lobby and its allies in Congress get their way, a regulatory process dismissed by environmental activists and labor unions as extremely weak would be watered down even more.

        In February, 11 congressmen—10 Republicans and 1 Democrat—joined some two dozen industry groups, including the Fertilizer Institute, the American Chemistry Council, and the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration, to back the General Duty Clarification Act. The bill is designed to sap the Environmental Protection Agency of its powers to regulate safety and security at major chemical sites, as prescribed by the Clean Air Act.

        “We call that the Koch brothers bill,” Greenpeace legislative director Rick Hind says, because the bill’s sponsor, GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo, represents the conservative mega-donors’ home city of Wichita. (The sponsor of the sister legislation in the senate, GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, represents the Kochs’ home state of Kansas.) The brothers have huge investments in fertilizer production, and Hind thinks they’ll ultimately get what they want, whether or not the bill becomes law. “It’s not necessarily intended to achieve legislative passage—it’s more about intimidation of a beleaguered agency.”
        The fight over fertilizer and the Clean Air Act has its origins in the passage of the law back in 1990. Although the original bill included language that would have permitted the EPA to regulate the emissions of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide—both of which are important ingredients and fertilizer manufacturing—a fierce lobbying push from the fertilizer industry resulted in the compounds being stricken from the formal list.

      • bostonboomer says:


      • RalphB says:

        Wow 2

    • Eric says:

      I think not meeting federal guidelines for storage of potentially dangerous substances is not considered criminal. As in criminal intent…Still wrong, but imprecise to call it criminal. In the same way it is an outrage to call people without papers “criminaliens”. Illegal is NOT always criminal. Ever take a good look at your speeding tickets?