David W. Pareya serves as the only justice of the peace in West, where a fertilizer plant exploded on the evening of April 17. In addition to the grief and shock felt by all members of a community hit by a disaster, he also bears a heavy burden: Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 49 requires that a JP conduct an inquest into the death of a person who dies in the county the JP serves if unnatural causes were a factor in the death.

In a short telephone interview on April 18, Pareya explains that he is still trying to assemble a team to meet his inquest responsibilities. But he does not yet know the number of deaths caused by the explosion, so he doesn’t know the magnitude of his task in coming days.

Pareya says, "I will try my best but right now we are in such shock."

He says much needs to be determined. Some of the estimates of deaths resulting from the explosion reported in national news coverage may be high, he says. Pareya, whose weighty responsibility cut short our conversation, ended with simple gratitude: "Thank you for thinking of us."