The City of West experienced one of the worst chemical blasts in U.S. history five years ago to this day. 15 people lost their lives in the fertilizer plant explosion. 12 first responders and three civilians died, and about 200 others were injured.
Community members gathered at West High School for a vigil on Tuesday night. City leaders say the turnout for their annual event is the biggest they’ve seen yet. The school’s auditorium can hold 600 people, and just about every seat in the room was taken.
Pastor John Crowder helped coordinate this event. Before the vigil started, he was nervous there wouldn’t be enough space. He says he knew the fifth anniversary would be a milestone, which is why he asked to have the vigil at the school instead of at his church.
The vigil started with a flag ceremony and a song from the West Elementary fourth graders. It ended with a moment of silence at 7:51 p.m. – the exact time of the explosion five years ago.
A bell rang for the 15 victims as people cried, and a video presentation showed a picture and name of each person.
Investigators are still looking to identify the person who set the fire, and they are offering a $50,000 reward. If you have any tips to share, you can call this tipline at 1-800-434-7345. All calls will remain anonymous.