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Friday, April 19, 2013

Is the media playing games with the dead in #WestTX?

UPDATE Monday 6:00pm pst: The Waco Tribune has published a list of victims.

UPDATE Saturday 10:00am pst: I saw a half-hour of morning news on both Los Angeles local ABC and NBC affiliates that did not mention the explosion at all. It seems that now that the Boston bombers have been taken down, they still don't have time to cover this story, which, according to the Dallas News could have been much worst:
The fertilizer plant that exploded Wednesday had at least 540,000 pounds of potentially dangerous ammonium nitrate in a storage building, a 2012 company filing with the state health department shows.

That’s more than 100 times the weight of the ammonium nitrate and fuel oil mix that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh used to destroy the Murrah Federal Building 18 years ago Friday.

The size of the explosive fertilizer stockpile on the property of West Fertilizer Co. and Adair Grain became clear Friday as an army of federal, state and local investigators picked through acres of shredded metal and the debris from blasted homes and schools close to the site.

The number of deaths rose to 14 with the discovery of two more bodies Friday. More than 200 people were injured.

The revelation that West Fertilizer had 270 tons of ammonium nitrate in storage on its property is certain to be a key element of the investigations ahead.
Also from the Dallas News report it appears that the Federal government has taken firm control of the situation. From staff writer Brandon Formby filed Saturday 9:36am pst:
Pete and Jacki Arias are tired of waiting.

The West couple spent Saturday morning registering their names, address, phone numbers and family information with officials who said a phone call would let them know when they could return to their house near the blast site.

The couple said they were given no timeframe as to when to expect such information.

"We need to get some straight answers," Pete Arias said.

The couple have been traveling back and forth from Waco each day to keep apprised of information. It's starting to take its toll.

"Don't leave us hanging," Pete Arias said.

He said he didn't know what agency took his information but assumed it was the city.

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Vanek told a crowd of reporters who descended on City Hall for what they believed would be a 10 a.m. press conference that officials are writing a statement and hope to have it finished by noon.

Vanek declined to answer any questions until the ATF says he can. He also said his main concern was keeping his residents informed.

UPDATE Friday 2:28pm pst: KWTX is reporting:
WEST (April 19, 2013)—Two more bodies have been found in the wake of the massive fertilizer plant explosion in West, increasing the death toll to 14, Department of Public Safety spokesman Sgt. Jason Reyes said late Friday afternoon.

Reyes said he expected to have more information later in the day on 60 people who were unaccounted for after the blast.

Earlier Friday Reyes confirmed that 12 bodies were recovered from the area around the West Fertilizer plant that exploded Wednesday night in West.

Reyes said all of the remains were taken to the Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences, in Dallas, for positive identification.

Reyes said Friday that he can't say how man first responders died Wednesday night in West, but he said the 12 bodies were all found "in the area of the plant."

Only one fallen firefighter has been identified publicly.

A note sent Thursday to members of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Hillsboro identified one of the victims as a Dallas firefighter who joined West firefighters at the scene of the blaze Wednesday night.

Later Thursday, Dallas Fire-Rescue identified the firefighter as Capt. Kenny Harris, 52, who lived in West.
In the town of 2,700, however, word of who died was spreading Friday.

A woman who lived in the apartment complex leveled by the blast says she learned that two volunteer firefighters she knew were dead, one of whom was the best man at her nephew's wedding.

The explosion also left more than 200 injured.

Most of the injured victims were treated and then released, but some remain hospitalized Friday.

Three patients, two of whom are in critical condition, remain at Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple and two children, one of whom is in critical condition are at McLane Children’s Hospital.

Seventeen patients remain at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center, five of whom are in intensive care.

Others were taken to Providence Health Center in Waco and Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

Reyes said three fire trucks and one ambulance were destroyed in the blast, which also destroyed 50 homes, the 50-unit apartment building and heavily damaged West Intermediate School.

He said 150 buildings have been cleared in the search effort and searchers are expected to clear the remaining 24 Friday.

He described the continuing effort as search and rescue.
West Mayor Tommy Muska said Thursday searchers have found no survivors in the rubble of the dozens of homes and buildings damaged or destroyed by a powerful fertilizer plant explosion, but he told CNN, "We're still holding out some hope."

"It was like a nuclear bomb went off," he said.

Muska told CNN that seven West firefighters died in the blast Wednesday night along with two others, but provided no further details.

McLennan County Justices of the Peace Pete Peterson and Kristi DeCluitt spent the day in West making death pronouncements, but it's still not clear how many lives the blast claimed.

Earlier authorities said the death toll could be as high as 15.

Urban search teams from Texas Task Forces 1 and 2 were in West Thursday, conducting a house-by-house search for the living and dead and by Thursday night they had cleared 80 percent of the damaged houses and three-fourths of a badly damaged 50-unit apartment complex near the blast site, Kelly Kistner of the State Fire Marshal's Office said Thursday night.

The teams will complete the search on Friday, Kistner said.

Over the next two days crews will work to shrink the evacuation perimeter, he said, and residents on the fringes of the blast zone whose residences suffered little damage should then be allowed to return home, he said.

The blast site was cleared as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Kistner said, erasing lingering concerns about a toxic leak or another explosion.

An air quality assessment will be conducted Friday, he said.

Responders are doing a "hard, gut-wrenching job," Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said earlier Thursday.

He said utility workers were accompanying search crews and described them as heroes for facing the same risks as emergency personnel.

In some cases, crews had to reinforce damaged buildings before they could enter to search, authorities said.

No information about fatalities was released during the news conference Thursday night or during a late-afternoon news conference that included Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who vowed to go after price gougers.

McLennan County Chief Deputy Matt Cawthon told reporters the affected area is a "highly populated neighborhood."

The number of injured rose to more than 200 Thursday.

About 100 patients were treated at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center.

Twenty-eight were admitted and five were in ICU Thursday afternoon.

Twelve elderly nursing home residents were treated and then discharged to other care facilities.

The others were treated and later released.

None of the patients at Hillcrest suffered burns or chemical injuries, the hospital said.

Sixty-eight patients were treated at Providence Health Center and 15 were admitted.

"The victims' injuries were consistent with those associated with an explosion; minor burns, broken bones, lacerations, abrasions, head injuries and respiratory distress," the hospital said in a press release.

Scott & White received five patients, three at Scott & White Memorial Hospital, two of whom were in critical condition and two at McLane Children's Hospital, one of whom was in critical condition.

"The people of our community and Central Texas have once again demonstrated our ability to face unexpected challenges and to respond with resilience and strength. We are proud to serve in such a community, and our thoughts and prayers remain with the people of West," said Glenn A. Robinson, chief executive officer of Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center Scott & White Healthcare in Waco.

(Numbers To Call, Ways To Help)

(More West Headlines And Information)

Another 42 patients were treated at Hill Regional Hospital in Hillsboro, three of whom were later transferred to Dallas.

The rest were released after treatment, the hospital said Thursday.

Nine victims were taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas and two remained there Thursday.

Lines formed early Thursday at the Carter BloodCare Center in Waco, where residents waited in the early-morning rain to donate blood for injured survivors.

As of noon, close to 300 people had donated at the center in Waco and many more were still waiting to give. More...

UPDATE Friday 2:30pm pst: KXXV Channel 25 News in Waco is reporting:
County officials tell us the number of people still missing in West is NOT 60, as many reported earlier today and Sen. John Cornyn said. That number is inflated, and includes names of people who are not truly missing, they just may have not answered the phonen when family called to check on them, or they were not home for a welfare check for whatever reason. An accurate number of missing people is significantly lower than that, and a source inside the perimeter told us the casualty list will likely be between 12-20 people. List of names won't be released for a while because next of kin are still being notified.

UPDATE Friday 11:00am pst: According to US Senator John Cornyn 60 people remain unaccounted for with at least 12 confirmed dead, yet all the media is talking about today is Boston and Watertown and the hunt for a terrorist. From the Statesman:
Officials: 12 confirmed dead, 60 remain unaccounted for
Updated: 12:34 p.m. Friday, April 19, 2013
Update 12:35 p.m.: U.S. Sen. John Cornyn on Friday said 60 people remain unaccounted for in a blast in West that killed at least 12 people and injured more than 160.

Cornyn said he was provided that number by the state deputy fire marshal and Texas Task Force members who are helping with search-and-rescue missions. More...

The very first report I heard on the total missing and possible dead as a result of the Adair Inc., West Fertilizer explosion put the number at 60, but there were no confirmed dead.

Thursday morning I awoke to pretty uniform media reports of between 5 and 15 dead, which sounds like rather cavalier math when human lives are concerned, but those numbers have held up pretty well all day, until now.

Early in the day, Mayor Tommy Muska told a number of media outlets that 35 people had died, including 10 first responders.
The number included five volunteer fire fighters, four emergency responders and an off-duty fire fighter from Dallas who lived in West, the mayor told the newspaper.

After Texas Gov. Rick Perry showed up, the Mayor revised his numbers downward to 14.
I refer you to this tweet, because if you go to the WSJ article now you will see that it has changed already in this fast moving story and it no longer [at this reading - 11:55pst] gives any accounting of the dead.

On the other hand, the Mayor has said that about 35-40 people are still missing and he doesn't expect anymore to be found.

Still, as of the 11 o'clock ABCNews here in Los Angeles, 5 to 15 is the number of dead they are predicting for the West, TX disaster.

The 11 0'clock news didn't even get to the West, TX story until 11:11pm, after eleven minutes on the Boston bombing. I do feel that the dead of West, TX are getting shorted by the media as compared to the three dead in Boston, and its not just their satisfaction with the sloppy numbers.

We know what the three dead in Boston look like, we know their names, their life stories. The dead of West,TX, save one Dallas fire fighter, have remained uncounted and anonymous. And I know its early, but what bothers me is that the media doesn't seem to be in any hurry to change that.

Now the State Firemen's and Fire Marshals' Association has thrown down something of challenge to those numbers games by confirming Mayor Tommy Muska's original story, at least with regards to the first responders:
The State Firemen's and Fire Marshals' Association of Texas said Thursday afternoon in addition to Capt. Harris, they have confirmed five West firefighter deaths, four EMS responder deaths, and one death of a responder from an unknown department. In addition, 11 West volunteer firefighters are in the hospital, according to the association.
According to this late report, from minews26 30 people are still missing, and according to this report, those still missing are not expected to survive.

Obviously, someone knows who is still missing, but the media doesn't tell us who they are or ask us to anguish over their fate.

Could it possibly be that the reason the reporting on these two tragedies is being handled so differently by the media is because a terror attack, even though very rare, can be very useful in their propaganda war, whereas a major industrial accident, the type of thing that takes far more American lives every year, is a big embarrassment to them?

More bits:
Statement Issued By Owner Of West Fertilizer Co.
Willie Nelson To Perform Benefit For West

See also my earlier blog - West TX Fertilizer Explosion: Who planted a bomb next to a high school?

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