WEST, Texas (KWTX) The City of West Fallen Heroes Memorial, which will be dedicated during a ceremony Saturday morning nearly six years after the deadly fertilizer plant explosion, was the vision of longtime resident Joe Pustejovksy, whose son Joey perished in the powerful blast.
Pustejovsky, who chaired the memorial committee, contacted Kurt Vrbas, a Dallas area engineer who grew up in West, to help him design the circular memorial with an eternal flame in the center, plaques mounted on granite slabs honoring the 15 first responders and residents who died, and a reflecting pool.
The powerful explosion on April 17, 2013, triggered by a fire that broke out at West Fertilizer Co., left 15 dead including 12 first responders, and injured more than 200.
Joey Pustejovksy was among the firefighters who responded to the initial call.
“Joey always had his pager and was ready to respond to fires,” his father said.
An engraving on the front edge of a bench in the memorial shows the wave form of a heartbeat that starts at 7:29 p.m. when the fire at the plant was reported, and ends in a flat line 22 minutes later, when the plant exploded.
“To lose a child is not easy at any age, if it's an infant or a 29 years old as Joey was, it's not an easy thing to do so you know it's certainly been a struggle for all of us over the years.”
Gov. Greg Abbott will speak during the ceremony, which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday in the West High School gym to where it was moved because of the threat of severe weather.
The memorial is near Parker’s Park, named in honor of Pustejovksy’s grandson Parker, who was determined to see West City Park rebuilt after the explosion that claimed his father’s life.
Parker proposed paying for the new park by selling hot dogs, and that’s what supporters did, raising $83,000 in the first of a series of fundraisers that generated tens of thousands of dollars in donations.
Organizers had hoped to dedicate the Fallen Heroes Memorial in 2018 on the fifth anniversary of the explosion, but it wasn’t ready and they wanted it to be perfect.
The fire at the fertilizer plant started at 7:29 p.m. on April 17, 2013.
West firefighters were dispatched to the plant at 7:32 p.m., arrived at 7:38 p.m. and requested assistance from other departments at 7:41 p.m.
The plant exploded at 7:51 p.m.
As much as 64 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored in the building, 28 to 34 tons of which exploded.
An additional 20 to 30 tons in the building and another 100 tons in a nearby railcar did not explode.
The blast affected a 37-block area and left a crater 90 feet wide and 12 feet deep.
It damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings including a nursing home, a two-story apartment building and three of West’s schools.