Adair Grain Inc.

The first lawsuits have been filed against West Fertilizer Co.’s parent company Adair Grain, Inc. following the deadly explosion on April 17. The blast killed 15 people, injured up to 200 others and left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Those filing suit cite negligence as the tragedy’s cause.

Texas lawmakers are also taking action. Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, have launched inquiries into the state’s role in oversight of hazardous chemicals. Eight agencies have some oversight of the plant and its explosion, and they are expected to testify at the Capitol on Wednesday.

The legislative inquiry “isn’t a finger-pointing exercise,” Pickett said, and rightfully so. Hastily assigning blame would risk inaccuracy and undermine the legal process. The victims of the West tragedy deserve justice, which requires a thorough investigation. Certainly, anyone discovered to be responsible for negligence should face significant repercussions, and every effort must be taken to avoid further catastrophes. But the facts must come first.

Although the memorial services for the victims took place last week, the mourning process is far from over. The families who have faced considerable hardship following the explosion deserve compensation for their losses — though, unfortunately, much of it can never be recouped.

Justice doesn’t stop there. Texas should never have to suffer another tragedy like the one in West, and lawmakers have a responsibility to act toward that objective. The Legislature adjourns May 27, but we hope its investigation won’t end prematurely. If more regulation is necessary to keep us safe, then lawmakers must deliver it, no matter how loudly private interests speak out. Once the investigation is complete, inaction would be the worst course of action.

Texas lawmakers must work to prevent similar catastrophes, not just for the safety of all Texans, but out of respect for those who lost their lives tragically and unnecessarily.

A single mother and several insurance companies are among the first to sue West Fertilizer Co. and its parent company Adair Grain, Inc. for the devastating fertilizer plant explosion in West.

The first two lawsuits filed against the proprietors of the fertilizer plant cite negligence as the cause of the explosion. One of the lawsuits also accuses Adair Grain’s employees of being unqualified and improperly licensed for their jobs at the plant. According to new estimates by the Insurance Council of Texas, the blast destroyed approximately 140 homes, left 15 people dead and up to 200 injured.

Andrea Jones Gutierrez, a single mother who claims she and her son “lost all worldly possessions and suffered physical as well as emotion injuries,” filed a lawsuit Monday.

According to the lawsuit, Gutierrez is asking for between $500,000 and $1 million in monetary relief.

In a statement, Gutierrez’s attorney, Randy C. Roberts, said legal action was required because the owners of Adair Grain have yet to claim responsibility for the explosion.

“[Adair Grain has] done nothing for the victims,” Roberts said. “You can read [Adair Grains’] statement online. I challenge you to find the words ‘I’m sorry.’ They don’t acknowledge any responsibility.”

In his statement, Donald Adair, a “longtime” resident of West who owns Adair Grain, said he is saddened by the tragedy which “will continue to hurt for generations to come.”

“The owners and employees of Adair Grain and West Fertilizer Co. are working closely with investigating agencies,” Adair said. “We pledge to do everything we can to understand what happened to ensure nothing like this ever happens again in any community.”

Daniel Kenney, a spokesman for Adair Grain, said the company would not comment on the lawsuits at this time.

The first lawsuit against the fertilizer plant was filed April 19 by a group of insurance companies claiming Adair Grains “was negligent in the operation of its facility, creating an unreasonably dangerous condition, which led to the fire and explosion.”

The four companies – Acadia Insurance Co., Union Standard Lloyds, Continental Western Insurance Co. and Union Standard Insurance Co. – are suing on behalf of residents, churches and local businesses affected by the blast.

Roberts said he knows of two more lawsuits that have been filed since Gutierrez filed her suit on Monday.

“I can understand a fire being the product of natural causes — an explosion that devastates half a town should not happen in the natural course of events,” Roberts said.