Recovery continues in West 5 years after fertilizer plant blew up, killing 15 people
Head football coach David Woodard, like others in West, lost his home and his place of employment on a Wednesday evening five years ago, when an explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. plant rocked the town, killed 15 and injured hundreds.
Woodard chose to rebuild and rely on the resilience he saw around him as residents immediately went into action, both before and after the blast, which came at 7:51 p.m. April 17, 2013. There was never a question of whether he and his family would choose to stay, Woodard said.
The town saw some leave after the blast to start their lives over and has seen some return. Woodard watched as enrollment in the West school district dropped for four years after the blast, only to see it turn around as the district’s recovery reached a new high point with the opening of a new joint middle school and high school building at the start of last school year.
He never had any doubt West would thrive again, Woodard said. Five years later, the signs of a strong, unbroken community are easy to find. Beyond the new buildings and houses in town, smaller threads of compassion are visible — the same threads that held the town together after the tragedy, he and other West school employees said.
In addition to the 15 people killed, mostly first responders in the line of duty, and the hundreds of people injured, three of West’s schools and more than 350 homes were damaged or destroyed in the town with a population about 2,800.
A commemorative service marking the fifth anniversary of the explosion was scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at West Middle School/High School.
‘What can we do?’
Woodard was driving through Marlin, returning from a track meet with about 20 students, when he heard the West Fertilizer Co. plant was on fire.
The team stopped for a quick