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Dispatch tapes reveal harrowing moments after Texas explosion

April 18, 2013|By Seema Mehta

In the moments after an explosion tore through a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, dispatchers pleaded for help for downed firefighters, summoning assistance from nearby agencies and directing fire trucks, haz-mat units and other responders to scenes of destruction throughout the town.

“Y’all have anybody available, I am requesting you. They have firefighters down,” says a woman early on. “Firefighters down. Again, there has been an explosion, there are firefighters down.”

A responder calls from a home for senior citizens, describing it as “institutionally damaged.”

“We have many people down,” he said. “Police, please respond.”

“I’m getting you everybody I can,” a woman dispatcher responds. “You have deputies, you have Bellmead fire, you have EMS. I’m sending everybody I got.”

PHOTOS: Fertilizer plant explosion in Texas

Agencies from throughout the area responded to the calls, sending fire trucks and ambulances, a bomb disposal unit and more. They were directed to the plant, a triage area, a burning middle school, an apartment building where people were stuck inside.

“All units report to the station immediately,” a man says. “All Downsville units report to the station immediately.”

Then, suddenly, units were warned to back off the site amid fears of another explosion.

“Everybody needs to get away from there. Back all trucks away from the power plant,” a man said. “… All units on scene, they need to load up and get out of there now…. Lot of [inaudible] tanks filled over here and they’re full.”

As of Thursday morning, authorities report that the explosion had killed as many as 15 people, and injured more than 160. Several firefighters were among the missing.

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seema.mehta@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATSeema

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