West Explosion Claims 15th Victim

WEST (April 22, 2013)—The death toll from the powerful fertilizer plant explosion Wednesday night in West rose to 15 Monday.

(Photo by Rachel Cox)

A source close to the investigation confirmed that one of the people injured in the explosion died at a hospital, but had no other details.

Meanwhile Monday, the White House announced that President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will attend a memorial service Thursday in Waco for the firefighters killed in the massive blast.

The combined memorial service for the first responders killed in the explosion will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Ferrell Center on the Baylor University campus.

Mr. Obama was already scheduled to be in Texas this week.

He will speak at a Democratic fundraiser Wednesday night in Dallas and then attend the dedication ceremony for President George W. Bush's library at Southern Methodist University.

The Greater Waco Interfaith Conference and members of the Waco Interfaith Clergy Roundtable are sponsoring an interfaith service on at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Mighty Wind Church at 1100 Washington Ave. in Waco to express gratitude to first responders and to offer prayers for those affected by the explosion.

Meanwhile Monday, services have been scheduled for two more of the fallen firefighters.

A Rosary will be recited for Joseph F. “Joey” Pustejovsky, 29, of West at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Church of the Assumption in West, followed by visitation until 8 p.m.

A burial Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Friday at the church and burial will follow at St. Mary’s Cemetery near West.

Pustejovsky, who was a West volunteer firefighter as well as the town’s city secretary, will lie in repose beginning at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Aderhold Funeral Home in West.

(Read Joseph F. Pustejovsky’s Obit)

A Rosary will be recited for William R. “Buck” Uptmor, Jr., 45, of Abbott, at 6 p.m. Friday at the Church of the Assumption followed by visitation until 8 p.m.

A burial mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday followed by burial at St. Martin’s Cemetery in Tours.

Uptmor will lie in repose beginning at 11 a.m. Thursday at Aderhold Funeral Home.

Uptmor, who was an Abbott volunteer firefighter, owned and operated Utmor Welding and Construction.

(Read William R. Uptmor’s Obituary)

Services will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Church of the Assumption in West for Dallas Fire-Rescue Capt. Kenneth “Luckey” Harris, Jr., 52, who was among the first responders killed in the massive explosion on April 17 at West Fertilizer Co.

Visitation will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the church.

Harris will lie in repose beginning at 11 a.m. Monday at Aderhold Funeral Home in West.

Harris was a married father of three grown sons who lived in West and was lending a hand to volunteer firefighters at the fertilizer plant.

He was born in Killeen, graduated from Crawford High School, attended McLennan Community College and graduated from the Dallas Fire Academy in 1982.

(Read Kenneth Harris’ Obituary)

The explosion claimed the lives of 15, most of them first responders.

Morris Bridges, West Volunteer Fire Department
Perry Calvin, Navarro Mills Volunteer Fire Department
Jerry Chapman, Abbott Volunteer Fire Department
Cody Dragoo, West Volunteer Fire Department
Kenny Harris, 52, Dallas Fire-Rescue.
Jimmy Matus, West business owner.
Judith Monroe
Joey Pustejovsky, 29, West city secretary, West Volunteer Fire Department
Cyrus Reed, Abbott Volunteer Fire Department
Mariano C. Saldivar, 57
Kevin Sanders, Bruceville-Eddy firefighter
Doug Snokhous, West Volunteer Fire Department
Robert Snokhous, West Volunteer Fire Department
William "Buck" Uptmor, Jr.,45, businessman

A Facebook Page has been created to honor the fallen firefighters.

(Fallen Firefighters Facebook Page)

Mariano C. Saldivar, 57, also died in the blast.

He retired from the warehousing industry about five years ago and moved from California to West to be closer to his family.

A burial Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Church of the Assumption in West. Visitation will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at OakCrest Funeral Home in Waco.

He’ll be laid to rest in Portland, Ore.

(Read Mariano Saldivary’s Obituary)

Residents of the town of 2,700 are mourning even as they begin the long process of rebuilding after the explosion.

“This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint,” Mayor Tommy Muska told residents at a town hall meeting Saturday.

“We need to stay strong, we need to be together, we need to bury our dead, and we need to move forward,” he said.

Families and firefighters in West packed church services on the first Sunday since the blast.

First Baptist Church remains in a barricaded area where the damage and rubble are the worst, so Pastor John Crowder set up folding chairs in a field and delivered his sermon from the flatbed of an 18-wheeler.

Three Masses were held on what happened to be Good Shepherd Sunday at St. Mary, Church of Assumption in West.

The 121-year-old parish is at the center of religious life in the predominantly Catholic town.

During a Mass at 10:30 a.m., Bishop Joseph Vasquez of the Austin Diocese, told worshippers, “Let the Lord carry you on His shoulders.”

“Healing takes time,” he said.

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(West: More Headlines And Information)

(West: How You Can Help Displaced Students)

(City Of West Website)

Joseph F. “Joey” Pustejovsky (Funeral home photo)