Fathers, firefighters: Lives lost in West, Texas

Friday - 4/26/2013, 1:42am EDT

This 2012 photo provided by the Uptmor family shows Buck Uptmor. Uptmor was killed in the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion. (AP Photo/Uptmor Family)

JUAN CARLOS LLORCA
Associated Press

WACO, Texas (AP) -- On April 17, an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, leveled part of the small town located some 20 miles north of Waco. Most of the victims were first responders from fire departments in West and other nearby towns that were on the scene trying to control the fire that preceded the blast.

With help from relatives, friends, obituaries of the deceased released by local funeral homes and information provided at a memorial service, The Associated Press compiled vignettes of the 14 victims who died in the blast. They were a grandmother, a town secretary, a fire truck builder, a town festival organizer, a Superman fan, fishing enthusiasts, hunters, fathers, men preparing to become emergency medical technicians, and devoted church and local organization members.

Here are their stories:

KEVIN WILLIAMS SANDERS: Teacher, Superman fan

Sanders, 33, was known for his love of all things related to Superman. He and he and his wife, Sarah, named their son Reeve, after actor Christopher Reeve, who played the superhero in the movies.

Sanders grew up in the Chicago suburb of Palos Hills, Ill., and graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in animal science in 2001. He taught veterinary technician training at McLennan Community College in Waco. About 20 of his current and former McLennan Community College students attended a memorial service for some of the victims wearing T-shirts displaying the Superman emblem.

Sanders was a volunteer firefighter with the Bruceville-Eddy Volunteer Fire Department near West and was taking EMS class in West when the plant caught fire.

He is survived by his wife and 3-month-old son.

MORRIS BRIDGES JR.: Father, motorcyclist

Bridges, 41, had been with West's volunteer fire department for three years. His wife says his last words as he left home to fight the fertilizer plant fire were telling his infant son that he loved him and he'd be "right back." Bridges grew up in Dallas but lived in West. He loved to ride motorcycles and go fishing and camping. He is survived by his wife, Carmen, and three children.

WILLIAM "BUCK" UPTMOR: Fence-builder, musician, rodeo devotee

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.

JOEY PUSTEJOVSKY: A caring, devout man

Joey Pustejovsky, 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.

PERRY CALVIN: Father, husband, firefighter

Perry Calvin, 37, died responding to the fire at the fertilizer plant. His father, Phil Calvin, said Perry, a husband and father of two boys ages 9 and 2, was looking forward to his wife having a new baby around Thanksgiving.

He was a volunteer firefighter at the Navarro Mills and Martens fire departments and was attending EMS classes in West. He also was a student at the Hill County Fire College.