(CNN) — Jeff Tobola had just wrapped up another work day and picked up his son in West, Texas, when he heard the city’s fertilizer plant was on fire.
Why not check it out?
“I noticed I could see the flames,” Tobola said. “I went like, yeah, that’s a good sized fire, and so it just drew me a little bit closer.”
Almost too close.
Tobola pulled out his cell phone to capture it on video, he hit record — and then all hell broke loose.
The plant exploded sending a deadly shock wave through the tight-knit community of 2,800 people, many of them of Czech heritage.
“What I was thinking … as it exploded … is, ‘am I going to be able to hear when this stops? Is this gonna burn me?’ Because, I was like 200 yards away from it.”
When it was all over 15 people were dead, 120 homes destroyed and 200 more damaged.
In the fraction of a second before the explosion, the video shows a brilliant flash of light, followed by a massive shock wave — a dome of energy rippling from the blast.
“It definitely was the biggest explosion I’ve ever seen,” said Tobola. “It seems like it lasted forever.”
Tobola only released the video this week on the eve of the first anniversary of the April 17, 2013, blast.
“It just wasn’t the time or place,” he said. “I had a lot of friends that passed in the fire.”
By Ed Payne and Chandler Friedman, CNN
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