People in wheelchairs taken to hospital in back of pickups



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Posted on April 22, 2013 at 6:11 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 22 at 6:21 PM

WEST, Texas -- West resident Billy Burch felt and heard the explosion Wednesday night from his house. He rushed out to help make rescues from the nursing home.

Burch said as soon as he walked in, he saw a bloody woman in a wheelchair.

"I grabbed her wheelchair and started going backwards. As I was looking down, I saw a blood trail," he said.

He then did room to room searches, which wasn't easy. Doors were blown off, walls were leaning in. 

Then he heard a woman scream for help.

"There was an entire sheet of sheet rock, a four by eight feet sheet, laying on top of her bed," said Burch.

He cleared one wing then finally more help arrived. 

"There we were literally taking them out of the windows. There we'd have two to four people taking the entire mattress and picking them up and pushing them out the window onto the grass," he said.

They smelled gas and feared another explosion. They had to figure out how to get the most critical to the hospital before ambulances arrived.

"If you could have seen it," Burch said. "People were riding in the back of pickup trucks in wheelchairs."

West officials held a press conference at City Hall Monday to say they're still looking for evidence of what caused the blast.

Officials are doing 3-D imaging to try to figure out the size of the crater left behind. They said they are also doing inventory of the chemicals on-site.

They told residents in the affected area not to expect water for at least a week, possibly three weeks.

People in zone three still aren't allowed home. Zones one and two have been allowed back in, but they have to adhere to a curfew, 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

"That third zone is not a pleasant area. It looks like a bombed out Beirut. There is no other way to say it," Burch said.

Burch lives in an area where he has water and electricity. However, he said this disaster brings back memories of the trauma he experienced when he lost his house to a fire two years ago. And the realization that it's not going to take months or years to rebuild this community, but a lifetime.