Neighbors support West Fertilizer owner
When Texas farmer Donald Adair bought the floundering West Fertilizer Co. in 2004, his neighbors in the rolling countryside near West were grateful he had saved them from driving extra miles to Waco or Hillsboro to buy fertilizer, feed and tools.
After the plant exploded last week, flattening homes, damaging schools, killing 14 people and leaving some 200 others with injuries including burns, lacerations and broken bones, they still described the 83-year-old owner as honest and good.
“I like him very well, he’s helped me out,” said William Supak, a retired farmer who lives a few hundred yards near a farmhouse owned by the Adairs. He remembered a time when his neighbor helped save his hay by putting out a fire.
As he paused from mowing the grass in front of his house, Supak said the disaster in West did not change his view of Adair, whom he said he sometimes sees using a powered wheel chair to fetch his mail.
“I don’t see him very often, but I understand that he’s not in too good a health,” said Supak.
Another neighbor of Adair, who asked not to be identified, described him as a “good guy.”
“It’s a farming community, everybody knows him. Like I said, it happened, and (to blame him) don’t make good sense.”
Five days after the explosion, school reopened on Monday and grieving families planned funerals for the paramedics and fire-fighters who died trying to fight the blaze.
Investigators said they still have not determined the cause of the explosion, although on Tuesday they ruled out bad weather or a fire in a rail car containing ammonium nitrate. The people who lived closest to the plant have not yet been allowed to return to their homes.
Adair has stayed out of the public eye, saying nothing since the statement he issued on Friday in which he vowed to cooperate with the investigation. A spokesman for Adair said he had been at the West Church of Christ, where he is an elder, on Wednesday night when he learned of the fire and drove to the scene to urge people to move to safety.
“As a lifelong resident, my heart is broken with grief for the tragic losses to so many families in our community,” Adair said in the statement. “The selfless sacrifice of first responders who died trying to protect all of us is something I will never get over.”
DEEP TIES TO THE TOWN
Adair lives about five miles from West in a neat, white two-story house set back from the road down a gravel driveway marked by a green John Deere mailbox. The house is surrounded by farm buildings and equipment, and the property has a basketball hoop.