Fertilizer plant explosion levels several blocks of small Texas town

14 Killed in West Explosion, Nursing Home Resident Died After Blast

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The remains of an apartment complex and a destroyed car lies in ruins next to the fertilizer plant that exploded last week in West.

    Fifteen people died after last week's deadly blast at the West Fertilizer Co., including a nursing home resident who died hours after the explosion.

    West Mayor Tommy Muska has said that 10 of the 14 who died in in the blast were first responders.

    Morris Bridges

    After learning of the explosion, Louise Mills drove to West from Ennis to check on her brother, Morris Bridges, who is a firefighter, she said last week.

    "He was the first respond for the West fire department, and we haven't heard from him since, and everybody is gone from the fire station and his car is still sitting there. We went to all the hospitals; he's not at any of the hospitals," Mills said. "I'm thinking he's died a hero; I really do."

    The afternoon after the explosion, Mills confirmed to NBC 5 that Bridges died in the blast.

    Bridges, 41, had three children ages 2, 17 and 18.

    Kenneth Harris: Dallas firefighter

    Dallas Fire-Rescue confirmed that Capt. Kenny Harris, 52, was killed in the explosion. Harris lived in West and was off-duty at the time but responded to assist, Dallas Fire-Rescue said.

    "I started calling and calling his phone, and his phone would ring, and I thought, 'Well, he's busy. He's helping people,' because I knew they set up a triage area. And I thought, 'I know he's there; he's helping,'" his wife, Holly Harris, said in an exclusive interview with NBC.

    Harris was off duty when the fire that caused the West Fertilizer explosion happened, but he still rushed to the emergency to offer his help to other firefighters responding to the scene. 

    "Captain Harris' response is typical of all our first responders; night and day, no matter where they are, no matter if they are on or off duty they respond with the greatest acts of bravery," Dallas City Manager Mary K. Suhm said in a statement.

    Dallas Fire Chief Louie Bright III said, "Our hearts are heavy and hurting with the loss of such a great firefighter, great husband and great family man."

    Harris graduated from the Dallas Fire Academy in 1982 and served as a firefighter with the Dallas Fire Department for more than 31 years. He also owned Harris Home Inspections and Construction with his family, a funeral home obituary said. 

    He loved offshore fishing with his sons and spending time on his boat the "Boots Up." He was a member of High Point Church in Waco and the Dallas Firefighters Association-Local 58. 

    He is survived by his wife of 28 years, Holly Harris of West; three sons; parents; two sisters; nieces and a nephew.

    William "Buck" Uptmor: Fence-builder, musician, rodeo devotee

    Buck Uptmor's brother, Brian, confirmed that he died in the explosion. He was killed while trying to free horses from a nearby barn.

    "I guess the good Lord wanted a good cowboy up there," said his mother, Beverly Uptmor.

    Uptmor, 45, owned a fence-building business and was supposed to start a job at a nearby ranch soon. Among other projects, Uptmor's company built the local cemetery's fence, said Bill McKown, a retired school superintendent from Abbott, Texas, a town six miles from West.

    "He was always busy," building fences, McKown said. "Because he was very reliable."

    Uptmor was the drummer for the band Billy Uptmor and the Makers. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, watching his children's sporting events, coaching Little League and supporting his daughter in barrel racing. He trained and jockeyed race horses and loved to rodeo, whether it was riding bulls or saddle and bareback broncos, according to an obituary released by a funeral home in West. 

    "I told him: `You probably got every bone in your body broken.' And he said, `That's probably true,"' McKown said.

    He is survived by his wife of 13 years, Arcy Uptmor, his parents, two sons, a daughter, a grandmother, a brother, a sister and several nieces and nephews.

    Jerry Dane Chapman: Firefighter, video gamer, generous man

    Jerry Chapman, 26, was a member of the neighboring Abbott Volunteer Fire Department. He was taking an emergency medical technician class when the fire broke out. Friends at the Black-Eyed Pea where he worked as a server say they weren't surprised to hear he ran to the fire to help.

    Chapman was known for his passion for helping others, both those he knew and those he did not.

    Chapman, one of the first responders killed in the blast at the fertilizer plant, died doing what he loved to do: serving and protecting others, a funeral home obituary said.

    Chapman was an avid video gamer. After working at different types of jobs, he discovered his passion when he became a member of the Abbott Volunteer Firefighters and started training to become an emergency medical technician. He had passed his skills test and was near the end of his training.

    He is survived by his parents, grandparents, a great-grandmother, a sister and other relatives.

    Perry Calvin: Father, husband, firefighter

    Navarro Mills volunteer firefighter Perry Calvin, 37, was in West taking a course at the Hill County Fire College to become an emergency medical technician when the call came in. His father, Phil Calvin, is the fire chief at the Navarro Mills Fire Department. He is survived by his wife and two sons, ages 9 and 2.  His third child is due in November.

    He was a self-employed farmer and loved the outdoors. He enjoyed horseback riding, rodeos, fishing and spending time with his family, a funeral home obituary said.

    He is survived by his wife, Rebecca Ann Calvin, two sons, his father, a brother, two sisters, grandmother, nieces, nephews and other relatives. 

    Cyrus Adam Reed: First responder almost done with EMT training

    Cyrus Reed, 29, an Abbott volunteer firefighter, also volunteered with West EMS. He graduated from Elsik High School near Houston in 2003.

    Reed was in a classroom attending the last session of his training to be an emergency medical technician when he responded to his final emergency call, a funeral home obituary said.

    Reed, one of the first responders killed in the explosion at the West Fertilizer plant, was a member of the Abbot and Bynum volunteer fire departments and West Ambulance.

    The obituary described him as having an "infectious smile," "a giant heart" and "a dedication to honor of which he would not compromise."

    He is survived by his grandmother, parents, a sister and several other relatives.

    Joey Pustejovsky Jr: A caring, devout man

    Joey Pustejovsky, Jr., 29, one of the volunteer firefighters killed in the blast, was the secretary for the town of West, said Veronica Felderhoff, a volunteer at the church where Pustejovsky's mother, Carolyn, works as a secretary to the rectory.

    "He was a very caring person, always ready to help, a very devout Catholic," Felderhoff said. The Pustejovskys attended Mass every Sunday.

    A funeral home obituary said Pustejovsky had been town secretary since 2009 and had worked as a personal property appraiser for McLennan County Appraisal District. He was a member of St. Mary's Catholic Church of The Assumption, where he started the youth ministry and was the director for two years of the Catholic Brothers and Sisters United Youth Ministry, the obituary said.

    He loved spending time with his children and family as well as being involved in the community and his church.

    The youngest of three brothers, Pustejovsky is survived by his wife, four children, his parents, a brother, grandmother and other relatives.

    Cody Dragoo: Firefighter, NASCAR fan, family man

    Cody Dragoo, 50, was not only a firefighter in West for 15 years, he worked at the fertilizer plant and was one of the first responders killed in the blast.

    Dragoo was born in Billings, Mont., and graduated from Montana State University with a degree in agriculture, a funeral home obituary said.

    He moved to Texas from Montana in 1994.

    He enjoyed hunting, fishing, cooking, watching NASCAR and being with his family and friends, the obituary said.

    Dragoo was a member of St. Mary's Catholic Church of the Assumption in West and the Knights of Columbus Council No. 2305. He was president of the Cottonwood Water Supply Corp.

    He is survived by his wife, Patty Dragoo, two sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law as well as several nieces and other relatives.

    Douglas Snokous: Firefighter, father, hunter

    Doug Snokhous, 50, had been a firefighter with the West Fire Department for more than 15 years. He and his brother, Robert, were among the first responders killed in the blast.

    "We are comforted they were together at the end," the Snokhous family said in a statement.

    Snokhous was a shop supervisor at the Central Texas Iron Works in Waco, where he had worked for the past 29 years, according to a funeral home obituary.

    A native of Hillsboro, Snokhous graduated from West High School in 1980. 

    He loved Westfest and the West Rodeo. He liked to fish and hunt deer and quail. He especially cherished spending time with his new grandson.

    He and his brother, Robert, were inseparable. They worked, hunted, golfed and fought fires together.

    Doug Snokhous is survived by his wife of 12 years, Donna Snokhous; two daughters; three stepchildren; a brother; a sister; his grandson; three stepgrandchildren; and several great nieces and nephews.

    Robert Snokhous: Firefighter, father

    Brothers Douglas and Robert Snokhous were both longtime West residents and West volunteer firefighters. Together with his brother Doug, they responded to the call for help at the fertilizer plant.

    Capt. Bob Snokhous, 48, died with his brother doing one of the things the two of them loved: responding to an emergency in their community.

    Born in 1964 in Hillsboro, Robert Snokhous graduated from West High School in 1982 and received an associated degree from Texas State Technical College in Waco. He worked at Central Texas Iron Works in Waco, where he was project manager. He had worked there for almost 20 years, the Snokhous family said in a statement.

    He was a member of St. Mary's Catholic Church of the Assumption and the Knights of Columbus West Council No. 2305. He loved hunting and the West Volunteer Fire Department outdoor cook-offs.

    He is survived by his wife of 13 years, Alison Snokhous; a son; two daughters; a brother; a sister; two grandchildren; several nieces and nephews; and other relatives.

    Kevin Sanders

    Kevin Sanders, 33, was an EMT. His family told the Waco Tribune-Herald that he was killed in the explosion after he responded to the fire at the plant. A veterinary technician he is survived by his wife and child, the newspaper reported.

    Jimmy Matus: Fire truck-builder and operator

    Named an honorary firefighter after having worked on building one of West's fire department trucks, Jimmy Ray Matus, 52, was the sales manager of Westex Welding and Custom Fire Apparatus in West.

    For the past 40 years, he worked at the company and for the last half of that time he managed all aspects of the business, a funeral home obituary said.

    "Jimmy was an outstanding man, someone who would go out of his way to help you. That's the way we are taught," said Garratt Matus of his father's cousin, Jimmy Matus.

    Matus graduated from West High School in 1979.

    He was a member of St. Mary's Catholic Church of the Assumption, SPJST Lodge 54, Sokol West and the State Fireman's Association, and an honorary member of the Masonic Lodge in West. He also served on the West ISD school board and played Santa Claus for local organizations, the obituary said.

    His wife preceded him in death in 2001. He is survived by his parents, his son and daughter, two stepdaughters, two sisters, grandchildren, nieces and other relatives.

    Judith Ann Monroe: Grandmother, puzzle solver

    According to the Waco Tribune-Herald Judith Monroe, 65, who lived in the apartment complex across from the fertilizer plant was killed in the blast. Monroe, who moved to West in 2001.

    Monroe, a native of Sinton, Texas, moved to West in 2001 from South Texas where she had lived most of her life. Called "Judy" by those who knew her, she enjoyed spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren, a funeral home obituary said.

    Monroe loved reading, solving word puzzles and playing board games.

    She is survived by her son, two grandchildren, a sister and other relatives.

    Mariano Saldivar: Loving husband and father

    The family of Mariano Saldivar, 57, confirmed to NBC 5 he also died in the blast. Saldivar also lived in the apartments destroyed by the explosion. Saldivar is survived by his wife, three sons and a daughter.

    The Rev. Ed Karasek, pastor of the St. Mary's Catholic Church of the Assumption, said Saldivar would attend Mass every Sunday with his wife and daughter. "He was a faithful and loving husband and father," Karasek said during a eulogy at Saldivar's funeral service.

    "He trusted in God whenever any one (of his relatives) was away on a trip or was ill, at times of hardship or sadness, during the drought or at times of war, when he lost loved ones," Karasek said of Saldivar.

    A native of Mexico, Saldivar moved to California where he worked in the warehousing industry until he retired in 2008, according to a funeral home obituary.

    Saldivar is survived by his wife, three sons, a daughter, three brothers and nine sisters. He will be buried in Portland, Ore.  

    Adolph Lander

    Adolph Lander, 96, was a resident of West Rest Haven nursing home. His family tells the Waco Tribune-Herald he was evacuated and died after he was evacuated to the community center. His family is awaiting the results of an autopsy to learn what caused his death.


    West Fertilizer Plant Explosion
    Complete coverage of a massive fertilizer plant explosion that leveled blocks of the small Texas town of West, TX. Click here for more.