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Officials: Fire, explosion at Texas plant in 2013 was result of criminal act

By Doug G. Ware

WEST, Texas, May 11 (UPI) -- Federal investigators said Wednesday that a fire that caused a deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas three years ago was a criminal act.

The blast at the West Fertilizer Company killed 15 people and injured more than 150 others. The explosion was so powerful it created a massive crater and damaged or destroyed nearby structures.

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Wednesday, ATF investigators said it has been discovered that the fire that preceded the blast was incendiary, meaning it was set. However, they did not call it arson.

An investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board found that the explosion was preventable and faulted the fertilizer plant and regulators responsible for not taking necessary safety measures.

ATF Special Agent Robert Elder said the agency is offering a $50,000 reward to help find the person who committed the April 17, 2013, "crime."

Officials said they settled on criminal aspects of the explosion after ruling out all natural and accidental causes.

No arrests have been made, but officials say they have conducted more than 400 interviews.

"I think it's too early to speculate on murder charges," Elder said.

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