NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Moved by the tragedy in West, Texas, an Stephen F. Austin State University football player set things in motion for a donation drive to gather items for the families affected by an explosion at the town's fertilizer plant and leveled part of the town Wednesday night.
"We have about six student athletes here at SFA that are from the Waco area, and we saw an opportunity for us to help our own here in Texas, come together as a team, and give back to the community," Garrick Smitherman, a senior offensive guard from Midlothian, said. "We thought there has been so much bad going on lately that it was time for some good for a change."
Earlier this week, Smitherman came up with the idea for a donation drive and approached his teammates about it. They liked the idea and decided to run with it.
The SFA Athletic Department will be accepting donations for the families in West from 12 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Homer Bryce Stadium Field House on the SFA campus. Smitherman said, according to the American Red Cross, the West residents' biggest needs right now are gift cards, monetary donations, and toiletries.
Smitherman said they are currently talking to the American Red Cross in Lufkin about the possibility of their volunteers transporting the donated items to West. If that falls through, he said the SFA football team will take the items to the small town near Waco. Until then, the donated items will be kept in a safe place on the SFA campus, Smitherman said.
At least 12 people were killed and approximately 200 were injured as a result of the massive explosion at the fertilizer plant in West. About 50 homes and buildings were destroyed.
The bodies were found in and around the plant area. Officials will not confirm if the bodies recovered were firefighters, emergency workers, plant workers or regular citizens, according to an East Texas News story.
Search and rescue crews have been sifting through the still-smoldering remains for survivors. That work continues Friday.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is working to try to determine the cause of the blast.