On Wednesday, an American flag was raised and a bugler played taps at a memorial service at the blast site. A few miles away, one of the victims, Kenneth "Luckey" Harris Jr., was laid to rest. Harris, a 52-year-old Dallas firefighter who lived in West, was one of the first-responders who died. One of the coffins at Thursday's service represented Harris.
Hundreds of firefighters from Dallas and other areas surrounding West came for the funeral, the first to be held for the responders killed in the blast. Firefighters lined the sidewalk as Harris' flag-draped coffin was carried out and loaded into the back of a Dallas fire truck to be carried to the cemetery. Bagpipes played as the coffin went through the crowd.
The investigation continues
"Shovel by shovel," investigators are combing through the charred remains of the leveled fertilizer distributor after the April 17 explosion in West.
Much of the landscape surrounding the West Fertilizer Co. is unrecognizable. What was once a corn silo appears to have crumpled from the blast. A blue tarp covers the shell of a rail car.
A crater nearly 100 feet wide and 10 feet deep sits where a building once stood. The crater is now filled with mangled metal and crumbs of mortar. Concrete chunks, some the size of shopping carts, are strewn hundreds of yards away from the blast site.
Losses from the explosion will probably top $100 million, said Mark Hanna, a spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas.
But amid the devastation, forensic mappers are hoping to find clues.
Hundreds of small pink flags indicate anything on the ground that crews want forensic investigators to take a closer look at.
Officials face a difficult task in reconstructing the fire that preceded the deadly explosion. Still unknown: what types of chemicals and in what quantities were stored at the facility.
Putting the pieces together
One official likened the investigation to a jigsaw puzzle.
"Right now, think of that coffee table where all 100 pieces are gathered around," Brian Hoback, an official with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told the San Antonio Express-News. "Now, we're going to pull them together."
Robert Champion, special agent in charge of the bureau's Dallas Field Division, said that determining what started the initial fire is key.
"We feel the explosion was caused by the fire, so we've got to determine what the cause and the origin of the fire was, and that's why we're ... attempting to re-enact that fire scene," he said. "A fire scene is complicated in itself. But you compound that with an explosion, and it really complicates the issue."
Investigators have ruled out the possibility that natural causes ignited the fire.