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Texas launches criminal inquiry into plant explosion

Shona Jupe was comforted Friday as she visited the West, Texas, building where she had lived.

Kye R. Lee/Associated PRess

Shona Jupe was comforted Friday as she visited the West, Texas, building where she had lived.

Texas authorities said Friday that they had opened a criminal investigation into last month’s deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant that killed 14 people and injured 200 others.

The announcement came hours after a paramedic who responded to the explosion was arrested on a charge of possessing the components of a pipe bomb, although law enforcement officials declined to say whether the charge was related to the blast.

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The criminal inquiry comes more than three weeks after the explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. plant outside West, Texas, 20 miles north of Waco.

On Friday, Bryce Reed, 31, an emergency medical technician who has said he helped evacuate people after the April 17 blast, was taken into federal custody, according to the US attorney’s office.

An affidavit said that authorities had found parts of a pipe bomb, including potassium nitrate powder, which is used in fertilizers and gunpowder.

Investigators have said the explosion was caused by ammonium nitrate, which was being stored at the fertilizer plant, but have not said whether a fire that preceded the blast had ignited the chemical.

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