Texas lawyers with ties to West, have started to find ways to pitch in and help as the tragedy continues to unfold after a fertilizer plant explosion on April 17 left untold numbers of people dead and dozens of homes flattened.
Amy Gremminger White, an associate with Locke Lord in Dallas, grew up in West, Texas; her family still resides there. “I am one of the few that left,” she says about her hometown. About the recent events, White who has talked to family members constantly for the past 24 hours reports: “It’s bad.”
Her parents, from their home about one mile away from the plant, heard the loud blast on the evening of April 17. So loud was the boom, they initially thought the implosion had occurred in their attic, White says. But after running outdoors and seeing a fireball down the road, her parents jumped into their car and drove to the scene to offer help. On their way, they picked up a first responder who had a broken leg and took her to a hospital. White’s parents then spent much of the evening assisting at a triage unit officials had established.
From her office in Dallas, White hopes that the kind messages she has received from lawyer-friends will translate soon into organized effort by attorneys to help her hometown.
Abelino “Abel” Reyna, the district attorney in McLennan County, where the tiny Central Texas town of West is located, reached the scene of the tragedy at about 10:00 in the evening. Reyna says his wife and seven assistant district attorneys had joined him in driving north after hearing about the explosion. In West, the prosecutors spanned out, staying until the next morning, to help first responders and others at a makeshift triage unit and a law enforcement command post. Today, Reyna says his office is standing by, ready if McLennan County Sheriff’s office needs requests for subpoenas or any legal information or advice. Investigators from his office are assisting the sheriff’s office, which is, at this point he believes, leading the investigations, Reyna says. His office’s chief investigator is the sheriff’s brother, so Reyna predicts coordination will go smoothly. The work is grim though. “Right now literally we are just trying to find survivors and bodies. We have a bunch of friends over there that have lost love ones,” Reyna reports.
Update: The State Bar of Texas has enabled the disaster response hotline for victims of the West explosion: 1(800) 504-7030.