West air evacuation team recounts explosion

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by TODD UNGER / WFAA

WFAA

Posted on May 2, 2013 at 8:33 AM

Updated Thursday, May 2 at 8:49 AM

WEST, Texas  — Three members of Air Evac Lifeteam 51 in West, Texas are back at work and remembering what happened two weeks ago when the town's fertilizer plant caught fire and exploded.

Their air medical base sits about a quarter of a mile from the plant.

Crew members Lee LeMay, Angela Bryce and Les Kleine were on duty and standing outside when the plant exploded.

"Loudest thing I've heard since Vietnam," said LeMay, the pilot.

Flying debris from the explosion peppered the crew's flight base and damaged their helicopter.

"The windows were all busted out... we couldn't fly it," LeMay added.

Right away, he and the other two crew members set out helping dozens of injured people who started showing up in the field near the flight pad.

A lot of the injured were senior citizens from a nearby nursing home.

"I'm scooping them up with the wheelchairs and putting them in the back of pick-ups," said Kleine, the flight medic.

Eventually, other off-duty crew members responded and everyone started moving the injured patients to a triage center and local hospital.

It didn't take long to determine that the scope of the disaster was enormous.

"Our homes are destroyed, are home town is destroyed," said Bryce, who quickly realized her own home had been lost. 

The base's helicopter hangar survived, but the offices and another garage were destroyed.

There is no word yet on how long it will take to rebuild the facility.

E-mail tunger@wfaa.com

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