Eyewitnesses To Texas Explosion Describe The Scene

Apr 18, 2013
Originally published on April 18, 2013 11:22 am



It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST: And I'm David Greene. We are finding out more about last night's explosion at a fertilizer plant in the rural city of West, Texas. That's just north of Waco. The blast there registered as a small earthquake, leaving behind flattened blocks of homes and businesses, and it was deadly. At this hour authorities are saying between five and 15 people are dead, and more than 160 are injured. NPR's John Burnett has been reporting from the scene, and earlier he spoke with West resident Julia Zahirniak and her son Anthony, who were across the street at West Intermediate School when the plant exploded.

JULIA ZAHIRNIAK: My son and I, we go every afternoon to the football field, so he can kick his football. And as we were walking, he was playing. The next thing I know is that there's like boom, and all you could see was fires, as high as you could see. And then I tell Anthony, I said run, you know, and then all you could hear was boom boom boom boom boom, and debris just started going and we were trying to get to the car and all you could see was the houses and all the glass is just shattering and people running and screaming. And then on this side, as we were running, you could see that care facility, which is the rest home, and people were screaming and running. And the next thing you see was just like smoke and everything and...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: How far away is the fertilizer...

ANTHONY ZAHIRNIAK, BYLINE: Well, it's right across the railroad tracks, just right across the railroad tracks. And we were on this side of the railroad tracks right on the corner of the intermediate. And when it was on flames, and I - it was a gulf of flames, and...


ANTHONY ZAHIRNIAK: Yes. And when I just kicked the football, it blew up on me, and I went 40 feet in the air.

ZAHIRNIAK: Not that high. You just went - he went quite a bit, you know. And he was just - because - I mean he just - it was just like if it was like right in front of us, it was like that close. You could just feel everything right there.

ZAHIRNIAK: So much pressure - of the pressure waves that was just lifting me up, and mom was screaming and terrified. She was - she was in the air as well. And her car was in the air. Everybody's car...

BURNETT: When you say your car was in the air, you mean that it was lifted off the ground by the explosion?

ZAHIRNIAK: Yeah, because of the pressure waves.

ZAHIRNIAK: Well, the trembling of the ground, that the pressure of it, you know, and my car is just like all dented in, you know - you know, so...

BURNETT: And what happened to your house?

ZAHIRNIAK: Actually, we live right next to the care facility, but we were not allowed to go back. So we have no idea, anything. They just told us that we're just not allowed to go back.

BURNETT: (Unintelligible) your house is okay.

ZAHIRNIAK: Not sure. They told different stories, and we really don't know till we actually see it ourselves.


That was Julia Zahirniak. She's a resident of the city of West, Texas. You also heard from her 11-year-old son Anthony. Mother and son were speaking with NPR's John Burnett. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.