West victims deserve justice

The first lawsuits have been filed against West Fertilizer Co.’s parent company Adair Grain, Inc. following the deadly explosion on April 17. The blast killed 15 people, injured up to 200 others and left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Those filing suit cite negligence as the tragedy’s cause.

Texas lawmakers are also taking action. Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, have launched inquiries into the state’s role in oversight of hazardous chemicals. Eight agencies have some oversight of the plant and its explosion, and they are expected to testify at the Capitol on Wednesday.

The legislative inquiry “isn’t a finger-pointing exercise,” Pickett said, and rightfully so. Hastily assigning blame would risk inaccuracy and undermine the legal process. The victims of the West tragedy deserve justice, which requires a thorough investigation. Certainly, anyone discovered to be responsible for negligence should face significant repercussions, and every effort must be taken to avoid further catastrophes. But the facts must come first.

Although the memorial services for the victims took place last week, the mourning process is far from over. The families who have faced considerable hardship following the explosion deserve compensation for their losses — though, unfortunately, much of it can never be recouped.

Justice doesn’t stop there. Texas should never have to suffer another tragedy like the one in West, and lawmakers have a responsibility to act toward that objective. The Legislature adjourns May 27, but we hope its investigation won’t end prematurely. If more regulation is necessary to keep us safe, then lawmakers must deliver it, no matter how loudly private interests speak out. Once the investigation is complete, inaction would be the worst course of action.

Texas lawmakers must work to prevent similar catastrophes, not just for the safety of all Texans, but out of respect for those who lost their lives tragically and unnecessarily.