(CNN) —Investigators have not ruled out an intentional fire being behind explosions at a fertilizer plant in the small town of West that left 15 people dead, the Texas fire marshal said Thursday.
State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy said investigators were unable to rule out three possible causes, including a spark from a golf cart, an electrical short or an intentionally set fire.
“The cause cannot be proven to an acceptable level,” Connealy told reporters.
Investigators said the incident was actually two simultaneous blasts triggered by the fire. The blasts, which registered on seismographs as a magnitude 2.1 earthquake and was felt 50 miles away, caused damage to a 37-block area of the town.
The announcement follows news last week that authorities launched a criminal investigation into the April 17 fire and explosion in West, about 70 miles southwest of Dallas.
State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy at this afternoon’s press conference.
The Morning News broke the news this morning that officials had narrowed the cause of last month’s deadly West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion to one of three things: a golf cart, an electrical short, or criminal activity. That wasn’t terribly narrow, but there was a press conference scheduled this afternoon, so we thought investigators might be more specific.
“The cause of this fire is undetermined,” State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy told reporters, explaining that fire investigators make that ruling when a “cause cannot be proven to an acceptable level of certainty because of insufficient information or when multiple causes can’t be eliminated.”
Several causes have been ruled out. The fire wasn’t caused by a rekindle as had been speculated, because there was no earlier fire. It also wasn’t spontaneous, nor was it caused by the 480-volt electrical system.
That leaves the complex’s 120-volt electrical system, a golf cart, or arson.
Investigators with the State Fire Marshal’s office and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms pointedly declined to speculate on the latter or the potential role of former EMT Bryce Reed, charged with possessing a pipe bomb, saying the criminal investigation is ongoing.
There’s a fire burning in Bridgeton, Missouri. It’s invisible to area residents, buried deep beneath the ground in a North St. Louis County landfill. But the smoldering waste is an unavoidable presence in town, giving off a putrid odor that clouds the air miles away – an overwhelming stench described by one area woman as “rotten eggs mixed with skunk and fertilizer.” Residents report smelling it at K-12 school buses, a TGI Fridays and even the operating room of a local hospital. “It smells like dead bodies,” observes another local.
On a Saturday morning in March, one mile south of the landfill, several Bridgeton residents have gathered at a small home in a blue-collar subdivision called Spanish Village. Concerned citizens Karen Nickel and Dawn Chapman are here to answer questions posed by four of their neighbors. “How will I ever sell my house?” “Am I going to end up with cancer 20 years down the road?” “Is there even a solution?”
In February, the landfill’s owner, Republic Services, sent glossy fliers to residents within stink radius claiming the noxious odor posed no safety risk. But official reports say otherwise. Temperature probes reveal the fire has already surpassed normal heat levels. Reports from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) indicate dangerously high levels of benzene and hydrogen sulfide in the air. In March, Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) – which has jurisdiction over Bridgeton Landfill – quietly posted an Internet notice cautioning citizens with chronic respiratory diseases to limit time outdoors. A month after Republic distributed its potentially misleading flier, the state attorney general sued the company on eight counts of environmental violations, including pollution and public nuisance. And this week, as part of a settlement set to be announced Tuesday, Republic sent another round of fliers offering to move local families to hotels during a period of increased odor related to remediation efforts.
Nickel and Chapman are stay-at-home moms; Chapman has three special-needs kids. Neither of them wants to spend her time worrying about a damn landfill fire. But until someone higher up the power chain intervenes, they have sworn to call municipal offices, file Sunshine requests and post notices to the community’s Facebook group, no matter how unsettling the facts they uncover. Scariest of all: The Bridgeton landfill fire is burning close to at least 8,700 tons of nuclear weapons wastes.
“To have somebody call you at 11 P.M., and they’re in tears, concerned for their family, that’s heartbreaking,” Chapman tells Rolling Stone. “We’re doing this because we don’t have a choice. If we don’t come together as a community and fight, no one’s going to do it for us.”
West Lake Landfill is an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site that’s home to some of the oldest radioactive wastes in the world. A six-foot chain-link fence surrounds the perimeter, plastered with bright yellow hazard signs that warn of the dangers within. On one corner stands a rusty gas pump. About 1,200 feet south of the radioactive EPA site, the fire at Bridgeton Landfill spreads out like hot barbeque coals. No one knows for sure what happens when an underground inferno meets a pool of atomic waste, but residents aren’t eager to find out.
At a March 15th press conference, Peter Anderson – an economist who has studied landfills for over 20 years – raised the worst-case scenario of a “dirty bomb,” meaning a non-detonated, mass release of floating radioactive particles in metro St. Louis. “Now, to be clear, a dirty bomb is not nuclear fission, it’s not an atomic bomb, it’s not a weapon of mass destruction,” Anderson assured meeting attendants in Bridgeton’s Machinists Union Hall. “But the dispersal of that radioactive material in air that could reach – depending upon weather conditions – as far as 10 miles from the site could make it impossible to have economic activity continue.”
Judge Ponders Plan to Put Out Bridgeton Landfill Fire
May 13, 2013 5:55 PM
Bridgeton Sanitary Landfill, where underground fire has been smoldering since December 2010
ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–A judge says he’ll decide by morning whether a plan to put out the fire and end the smell at the Bridgeton Sanitary Landfill is workable.
The plan — crafted by the Missouri Attorney General and the landfill owner, Republic Services Inc. — has not yet been made public. It’s now in the hands of Circuit Court Judge Michael Jamison, who met in his chambers with lawyers from both sides on a day he was scheduled to hold a hearing on the Attorney General’s lawsuit against the landfill.
“It’s not exactly a settlement,” Jamison told Bridgeton residents, reporters and environmentalists waiting in his courtroom, “But it’s something that would address the smoldering issue and what the sate may be able to do.”
The lawsuit filed by the state calls for an aggressive plan to put out the fire, which has been smoldering since December 2010 — and for fines upwards of tens-of-thousand a dollars a day for alleged violations of Missouri environmental laws. Koster’s suit claims the burning landfill is billowing benzene and other hazardous chemicals into the air, and leaking a black ooze into ground water.
Koster’s office declined to comment. The Attorney General has scheduled a news conference for 10:30 Tuesday morning in downtown St. Louis to reveal details of the proposed next step.
Already, complaints are rising that the apparent deal was made without input from the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, from area businesses or from Bridgeton residents.
“The community needs to be at the table,” said the coalition’s Kat Logan Smith, “The property owners, the families and businesses here need to be at the table, because they need to decide what the bottom line is.”
Authorities launch criminal investigation of West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion
Friday, May 10, 10:45 PM
AUSTIN — Hours after a paramedic in West, Tex., was taken into federal custody on Friday for unlawful possession of a “destructive device,” the Texas Department of Public Safety and the McLennan County sheriff said they are launching a criminal investigation into the fertilizer plant explosion there last month that killed 14 people.
But officials declined to draw a link between the arrest of the paramedic, 31-year-old Bryce Reed, and the disaster.
“At this time authorities will not speculate whether the possession of the unregistered destructive device has any connection to the West fertilizer plant explosion,” a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Reed remains in custody in Waco, Tex., officials said, pending a detention hearing Wednesday. If convicted, Reed faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
Police launched a criminal investigation today into the April 17 explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, which killed 14 people.FREDERIC J. BROWN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
WACO, Texas — Texas law enforcement officials today launched a criminal investigation into the massive fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people last month, after weeks of largely treating the blast as an industrial accident.
The announcement came the same day a paramedic who helped to evacuate residents the night of the explosion was arrested on a charge of possessing a destructive device, though it is not clear whether the charge is related to the April 17 blast at West Fertilizer Co.
The Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement today that the agency had instructed the Texas Rangers and the McLennan County Sheriff’s Department to conduct a criminal probe.
“This disaster has severely impacted the community of West, and we want to ensure that no stone goes unturned and that all the facts related to this incident are uncovered,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said.
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said residents “must have confidence that this incident has been looked at from every angle and professionally handled — they deserve nothing less.”
The statement did not detail any further reasons for the criminal investigation and said no additional information would be released at this time.
An explosion on a freight train carrying chemicals and oil products hurled part of a railcar into a residential block in southern Russia early on Thursday, injuring 27 people of whom 13 were taken to hospital, officials said. The federal Investigative Committee said 69 railcars carrying sodium chloride, gasoline, fuel oil, propane and other goods derailed following an onboard fire near Belaya Kalitva station in the Rostov-on-Don region, around 1,000 km (625 miles) south of Moscow. “The blast hurled part of a railcar into the sixth floor wall of a residential block,” the committee said on its website. A criminal investigation has been launched into possible safety breaches.
Published time: May 08, 2013 23:21
Edited time: May 09, 2013 18:10
At least 44 people have been injured after a cargo train derailed in Russia’s south with over 50 fuel tanks running off the tracks. One person has been reported missing. Almost 3,000 were evacuated from the nearby area.
Over 50 rail cars of a 71-car-long cargo train derailed at the Belaya Kalitva station in Russia’s Rostov region at around 2 am local time.
Up to 10 cars have caught fire as a result of the accident, and heavy smoke is reported at the scene. The fire had been localized at around 6 am local time.Photo from mchs.gov.ru
“As a result of the accident, one of the cars with diesel fuel tank started the fire, engulfing an area of 1.5 thousand square meters,” Interfax quoted the local Emergencies Ministry representative.
At least 44 people were admitted to the hospital with injuries and burns. Seventeen of them including the locomotive driver have been hospitalized, one in critical condition.
The official representative of the North Caucasian railway Evgeny Boevets told Interfax that during the derailment one of the cars released propane gas, enabling the flames spread to the locomotive.
They normally need help from penetration assets in the target country – manifestly the case with the Boston bombers. There is usually a support network in the target country and there always has to be someone to provide the cash.
Asking what the terrorists’ motives were is pretty pointless if the target is assigned by the sponsoring intelligence agency. It was always likely to be the DVD at Boston. There is therefore no need to ask why Chechens would attack an American target instead of a Russian one.
Since the FBI are penetrated by the DVD there is no great mystery as to why they were allowed to fly freely in and out of the USA and why the FSB’s warnings were ignored. Further intel has come to light suggesting that the FSB had done really good work in monitoring this family and their associates. Comparing them with Thames Valley Police is like comparing the US Marines with the Cub Scouts.
Since the FSB, unlike Thames Valley Police, know about the DVD, they will not have been too surprised that the attack was allowed to proceed. Not the least shameful thing is that the families will be lied to repeatedly in the years ahead, like the 7/7 families were lied to in Britain. That attack was of course sponsored by GO2, the German operation in London. We are still lying to the families of the victims of IRA terrorism thirty years after we discovered that the Germans were sponsoring the IRA and that there was a covert German agency called the DVD. I had a conversation with a minister in the Thatcher government, some years ago, who told me testily that we had known all about the DVD and the IRA in the 1980s. I could have hit him – why didn’t we do anything about it?
Two comments about prevention of further attacks. Firstly the usefulness of CCTV has once again been demonstrated. But for store CCTV these terrorists would never have been identified. The great thing about commercial CCTV is that retailers can just drop the tapes round to a local TV station. Had they been official tapes they might have been suppressed on orders from a DVD asset high up in the Department of Justice. I well recall how CCTV footage of Madeleine McCann in a transport café (truck stop) near Montpelier was suppressed by Paris, once facial recognition technology had confirmed that it was her. Where the DVD are involved you get official corruption you wouldn’t believe.
I know there are privacy issues but it’s the old public safety/privacy balance. CCTV makes streets safer. Privacy comes at a cost.
Americans troubled more by governmental abuse than terrorism
Published time: April 29, 2013 17:55
Edited time: April 30, 2013 17:12
Police and private security personel monitor security cameras at the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative on April 23, 2013 in New York City. (AFP Photo / John Moore)
Even after a pair of bombings in Boston two weeks ago injured hundreds, more Americans say they are unwilling to sacrifice constitutional liberties for security than those who are.
A handful of polls conducted in the days after the Boston Marathon bombings show that US citizens are responding much differently than in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed roughly 3,000 people. Not only are Americans more opposed now to giving up personal freedoms for the sake of security than they were after 9/11, but other statistics show that distrust against the federal government continues to climb.
Just one day after the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing, pollsters with Fox News asked a sample of Americans, “Would you be willing to give up some of your personal freedom in order to reduce thethreat of terrorism?” Forty-three percent of the respondents said they would, while 45 percent said no. Comparatively, 71 percent of Americans asked a similar question in October 2001 said they’d be willing to give up personal freedoms, while only 20 percent opposed at the time.
In the dozen years since 9/11, frequent polling conducted by Fox has suggests that the majority of Americans have all the while said they’d give up their freedoms for the sake of security. Only with the latest inquiry though are those answers reversed: the last time a majority of Americans opposed giving up privacy for security was May 2001.
A pit bull saved a woman from a fire in her Long Island, New York home on Friday, barking to alert her as the flames began to spread from the front to the back of the house.
Jackie Bonasera said she was drying her hair in an upstairs bathroom of the home on Gabriele Drive in East Norwich when she heard the dog barking. She ran downstairs and saw the flames on the side of her garage.
She was able to escape the house.
“I ran out of the house and my neighbors came running over, and then I thought about the dog – I’m like, ‘He saved my life, I have to save his,’” Bonasera recounted. Read Full Article and Watch Video Here
This 2007 booking photo released by Warwick, R.I., police shows Katherine Russell, arrested on shoplifting charges there. Charges were later dismissed. Russell is the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.
By Pete Williams and Erin McClam, NBC News
DNA found on a fragment of one of the Boston Marathon bombs does not match DNA taken earlier this week from Katherine Russell, the widow of the dead suspect in the attack, but she remains under scrutiny, investigators told NBC News.
Investigators said they still have many questions for Russell because they believe the bombs were assembled at the home she shared with her husband, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed in a firefight with suburban Boston police April 19.
Russell converted to Islam in 2009, after meeting Tsarnaev in a nightclub, and married him in 2010. She said through her lawyer that his alleged involvement in the attack came as an “absolute shock.”
Investigators said earlier this week that a piece of one of the pressure-cooker bombs set off by the brothers had a woman’s DNA on it, and that they wanted to determine who else might have handled the bombs.
Federal agents with bomb-sniffing dogs searched in Dartmouth, Mass., on Friday after people living there said they heard loud booms a month ago. The surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was a student at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
Ever since Boston police identified the Boston Marathon bombing suspects as Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, authorities have been digging into the brothers’ pasts to learn why they wanted to hurt people at the finish line of the marathon. In addition to finding out that over $100,000 in government assistance has gone to the Tsarnaev family, authorities found female DNA on bomb parts recovered at the scene of the bombings.
Now, The New York Times is reporting that Dzhokhar has revealed some of the bombing plot to the F.B.I. From his hospital bed, the alleged bomber told police that he and Tamerlan had originally planned to plant their bombs on the Fourth of July. Their bomb-making proceeded more quickly than planned, and the Boston Marathon was chosen as the target. Dzhokhar also reportedly stated that the bombings were partly motivated by the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that he and his brother had viewed online sermons from Anwar al-Awlaki, an American cleric.
WASHINGTON — The surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings told F.B.I. interrogators that he and his brother considered suicide attacks and striking on the Fourth of July as they plotted their deadly assault, according to two law enforcement officials.
Stew Milne/Associated Press
Katherine Russell, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife.
But the suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, told investigators that he and his brother,Tamerlan, 26, who was killed in a shootout with the police, ultimately decided to use pressure-cooker bombs and other homemade explosive devices, the officials said.
The brothers finished building the bombs in Tamerlan’s apartment in Cambridge, Mass., faster than they had anticipated, and so decided to accelerate their attack to the Boston Marathon on April 15, Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts, according to the account that Dzhokhar provided to authorities. They picked the finish line of the marathon after driving around the Boston area looking for alternative sites, according to this account.
On Friday morning, federal agents, state troopers and local law enforcement officers fanned out to search areas in the vicinity of Dartmouth, Mass., as part of their continuing investigation into the bombings, an F.B.I. spokesman, Jason J. Pack, said.
It was not immediately clear what they were searching for, but the officials said that there was no immediate threat to public safety. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, attended the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. Two of his classmates from the college were charged this week with throwing out evidence that officials said could have linked Mr. Tsarnaev to the attacks.
In addition, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has told authorities that he and his brother viewed the Internet sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American cleric who moved to Yemen and was killed in September 2011 by an American drone strike. There is no indication that the brothers communicated with Mr. Awlaki.
Mr. Tsarnaev made his admission on April 21 — two days after he was captured while hiding in a boat in a nearby backyard — to specially trained F.B.I. agents who had been waiting outside his hospital room for him to regain consciousness.
After he woke up, they questioned him, invoking what is known as the public safety exception to the Miranda Rule, a procedure authorized by a 1984 Supreme Court decision which in certain circumstances allows interrogation after an arrest without notifying a prisoner of the right to remain silent.
The new details of what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has told authorities emerged as the F.B.I. moved forward on Thursday with trying to determine how the brothers were radicalized and the role that Tamerlan’s wife, Katherine Russell, may have played in the plot or in helping the brothers evade the authorities after the attacks.
As part of those efforts, the authorities have sought to determine whether fingerprints and DNA found on bomb fragments were from Ms. Russell. According to two other law enforcement officials, Ms. Russell’s fingerprints and DNA do not match those found on the fragments. All of the law enforcement officials were granted anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation.
Federal authorities are skeptical of Ms. Russell’s insistence that she played no role in the attack or in helping the brothers elude the authorities after the F.B.I. released photographs of them. That skepticism has been stoked by Ms. Russell’s decision in recent days to stop cooperating with the authorities.
Official: Boston bomb plot had been set for July 4th
Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY12:07 a.m. EDT May 3, 2013
The suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing had originally planned to strike on July 4, but chose the race because it coincided with the time they had finished assembling the explosives, a law enforcement official said Thursday.
According to hospital interviews with surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev shortly after he was captured, the suspects apparently finished constructing the explosives well before they had originally planned and chose to act sooner rather than wait, said the official who is not authorized to comment publicly.
It was not immediately clear, however, whether the suspects had identified a specific July 4 target that corresponded with a later completion time, the official said. But the suspects allegedly settled on the marathon after noticing preparations for the race shortly before the event.
Boston hosts one of the premiere July 4 celebrations in the U.S., featuring the Boston Pops and a spectacular fireworks display on the banks of the Charles River.
Tsarnaev has been charged with detonating one of the pressure-cooker devices, while brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a confrontation with police in the days after the attacks.
Meanwhile, investigators in the Boston bombing case want to find out what Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his wife discussed when he phoned her a few hours after the FBI released photos of him and his brother as suspects in the deadly attack, a separate law enforcement official said Thursday.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died not long after the conversation during a shootout with police that left his 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar, seriously injured.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured a few hours later while hiding in a boat in a backyard in Watertown, Mass. He is currently being held at a prison medical center.
That same evening, police say, three classmates of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth allegedly concluded that he was one of the suspects, went to his dorm room and removed his backpack and laptop. A federal complaint charges that they took the items to try to keep Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from getting into trouble over the bombings.
The content of the phone conversation between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his wife, Katherine Russell, has not been disclosed, but authorities want to discuss it with her, the law enforcement official said.
Read Full Article Here
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. The body of Tamerlan will be claimed by his family, says an uncle.
By:Michelle R. Smith and Eric TuckerThe Associated Press, Published on Wed May 01 2013
PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Relatives of the dead suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing will claim his body now that his wife has agreed to release it, an uncle said as officials in both Washington and Russia deepened their investigations into him and his ties.
The body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, has been at the medical examiner’s office in Massachusetts since he died after a gunfight with authorities more than a week ago.
Tamerlan and brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, both Russian natives who lived for several years in the U.S., are accused of using a weapon of mass destruction during the April 15 marathon. Three people were killed and more than 260 injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line.
Amato DeLuca, the attorney for Tamerlan’s widow, Katherine Russell, said Tuesday that his client had just learned that the medical examiner was ready to release Tsarnaev’s body and that she wants it released to his side of the family.
Police said Tsarnaev ran out of ammunition before 19-year-old Dzhokhar dragged his body under a vehicle while fleeing the scene. His cause of death has been determined but will not be made public until his remains are claimed.
“Of course, family members will take possession of the body,” uncle Ruslan Tsarni of Maryland told The Associated Press on Tuesday night. “We’ll do it. We will do it. A family is a family.”
He would not elaborate. The brothers’ parents are still in Russia, but other relatives on their side of the family in the U.S., including Tsarni.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev lies in a prison hospital after being wounded in the shootout with police as he and his brother made their getaway attempt. He is charged with using a weapon of mass destruction to kill, a crime that carries a potential death sentence.