There may be nothing left but ashes, but sightseers are driving by the Branch Davidian compound remains on Double EE Ranch Road to gaze at the site.
Authorities opened the road Friday.
Texas Department of Public Safety troopers had intended to leave the compound site Friday, but a quarantine issued by the Texas Department of Health will keep them there standing guard over the weekend, said Laureen Chernow, DPS spokeswoman.
“We’ll have people there over the weekend to help enforce the quarantine until we work something out with local law enforcement agencies,” she said. “We’ll have to determine whose turn it is to enforce it.”
Chernow said she hasn’t heard anything about sightseers being a problem because “people pretty much understand there’s not much to see. This weekend, I’m not sure how it’ll go.”
Friday afternoon, the curious drove by, some stopping on the roadside, at a rate of about 16 cars an hour.
Patrician Hooper, an employee with Leisure Lodge Nursing Center in Hamilton, said she brought about 12 residents up to have a look “since this was national nursing home week and the residents had heard so much.
“They’ve kept up with it ever since the ATF first came in,” she said.
A van full of residents behind her car peered past small ponds on the cult’s property to the compound’s ashes.
Another sightseer, Eldon Duffer of Mabank, said he came out with his daughter from Waco.
“I really didn’t expect to see this much actually,” he said. “The cars and everything. I figured they’d all be gone by now. This gives me some idea of how big the place was. I saw it on TV all the way through.”
A driveway leads past a gate to the charred compound remains within, populated with DPS troopers and Texas Rangers.
Duffer noted that across the road from the gate were the houses from which ATF agents staked out the compound before the standoff. Then he turned his back toward the compound’s ashes.
“I think it’s tragic,” he said, shaking his head. “Sad thing about those kids. That’s the main thing, those children.”
The compound burned April 19 after the FBI pumped tear gas into the buildings in an attempt to try to force cult members out.
Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh, died with about 70 other people, including 17 children. Authorities have not determined an exact number.
Several feet from the ashes, cars — some smashed while others are in good shape — a boat and other items sit where the FBI pushed them with tanks during the 51-day standoff with the heavily armed religious cult.
It is hard to discern from the road where the compound ashes begin and the debris and dirt around it end.
Many sightseers had binoculars with them.
Mike Carroll, a Baylor University student, also took his parents, who’d come to see him from Tennessee.
“I brought them out here just to see history,” he said, as his father used his binoculars.
Though sightseers can see the compound remains from the road, a closer look has been forbidden because the site was a crime scene.
Also, David R. Smith, state health commissioner, ordered the quarantine Friday, saying he fears disease may be transmitted from the area.
Texas Department of Health officials found evidence of possible contamination with communicable diseases.
“Inspectors found untreated sewage, standing water where flies and mosquitoes can breed, shelter for rodents and other pests, an open cistern and other conditions hazardous to the public health,” the department said in a statement.
Smith’s order says each of those conditions “is a potential transmitter of communicable . . . disease or a public health nuisance.”
Beginning immediately, the quarantine calls for the perimeter of the property to be completely fenced. It forbids entry to the property by anyone not authorized by the health commissioner until “the nuisances are abated and the property disinfected and decontaminated.”
TDH officials said violation of the quarantine, trespassing by unauthorized people, is a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
The health department asked the DPS and other law enforcement agencies to enforce the quarantine.
In other developments, McLennan County Justice of the Peace David Pareya and Justice of the Peace James Collier released the identifications of the following Branch Davidians killed in the fire:
- Wayne Joseph Martin, 20, an American, whose body was found inside the bunker and identified by dental records. His cause of death is pending.
- Judy Violet Schneider, 41, an American, whose body was found inside the bunker and identified by fingerprints. Cause of death was thoracic traumatic injury.
- Audrey Martinez, 13, an American, whose body was found inside the bunker and identified with dental records. The cause of death is pending.
- Abigail Martinez, 11, an American, whose body was found inside the bunker and identified by dental records. The cause of death is pending.
- Raymond Richard Friesen, 76, a Canadian, whose body was found inside the chapel and identified by dental records. Cause of death was smoke and carbon monoxide inhalation with burns and extensive charring.
- Novellette Hipsman, 36, a Canadian, whose body was found on top of the bunker and was identified by dental records. Cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head.
- The cause of death for Susan Marjorie Benta, 41, of Great Britain has been identified as smoke and carbon monoxide inhalation.