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Explosion in West, TX

First responders to West fire were passionate about helping others

Posted Friday, Apr. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Family and friends remember those who died Wednesday when a thunderous explosion shook this Central Texas town.

Jerry Chapman, 26

Chapman was a volunteer firefighter in Abbott and was in West taking an emergency medical technician class when the fire broke out.

His friends at the Black-Eyed Pea restaurant in nearby Hillsboro, where he worked as a server, weren't surprised to hear he ran to the fire.

He was just a week away from getting his EMT certificate, said Lori Deputy, an assistant manager at the Black-Eyed Pea.

"He was all about the volunteer fire department," Deputy said. "It took him awhile to find his direction but he wanted to become an EMT. That was really his goal. That was what he was always talking about."

Around the Black-Eyed Pea, where a percentage of Saturday's sales will go to Chapman's parents for funeral expenses, Chapman was known as "Mr Fix-It" who worked as a server but also pitched in wherever he was needed and having a good-natured sense of humor..

"I keep thinking this is all a practical joke and he's going to come around the corner and say 'Gotcha,' " Deputy said. "We can't believe he's all gone."

Deputy said Chapman would pitch in as a busboy as needed and help with small repairs around the restaurant. He had fixed things around her home and was friends with everyone at the restaurant.

"We're all kind of torn up around here," Deputy said. "In the city you may go to work at a restaurant and that's it. But at a small-town restaurant like this, we're all family. He was kind of guy that would make you laugh and or give a hug when you needed it." - Bill Hanna

Robert Snokhous, 47, and Doug Snokhous, 50

The two brothers were volunteer firefighters in West and had responded when the call on the fire came in.

Marqee Snokhous, the daughter of Robert Snokhous, said her father and uncle had been volunteering with the fire department since she was a young girl.

"They love doing this," said Snokhous, 23. "They love to go and help somebody. They were always one of the first ones there... It's something they put their heart into."

Because she lives in Fort Myers, Fla., Snokhous said she hadn't seen her dad in 10 years and had to settle for phone conversations with him.

"I have 3-year-old twins that he's never even been able to meet," she said.

Both were longtime West residents and employees at Central Texas Iron Works in Waco.

The company's president, David Harwell, said Doug had worked at CTIW for 31 years and Robert for 20. He said both men served as members on the emergency response team at the company.

"They were both amazing professionals at their respective responsibilities and not only long time employees but friends to everyone here at CTIW," Harwell said in an email. "... Men of their caliber are certainly admired for always maintaining a high level of commitment to their jobs as well as helping others and we will dearly miss both of them on a daily basis as members of the CTIW family. Our deepest sympathies go out to all the members of their family as well as the entire community of West.'' - Deanna Boyd, Lee Williams

Morris Bridges, 41

Morris Bridges wasn't a West native but had come to love to the town after moving there three years ago, said Daphne Hajovsky, president and co-owner of Action Fire Pros, a fire sprinkler company based in Waxahachie where Bridges worked.

He put down roots, buying a home just four houses down from the West Fertilizer Co., where he lived with his wife and three children.

"That was home to him," Hajovsky said. "He was going to stay. Everybody waved to him and accepted him and he just felt like he had become a part of the community."

But that wasn't surprising for the hard-working Bridges who was outgoing and friendly.

"I would describe him as someone who never met a stranger and never lost a friend," Hajovsky said. "He always had hugs for the women and handshakes for the men."

Bridges, a father of three, worked as a sprinkler foreman, installing and servicing sprinklers in commercial buildings. He covered a territory from Dallas-Fort Worth to Waco.

He was so proud to be a West volunteer firefighter that he wore his badge to work.

It wasn't surprising to his co-workers that when the fire broke out, he went to fight the fire.

"He told his wife he was going to the fire and told them to get into the house," Hajovsky said.

Action Fire Pros has created an account for the Morris Bridges Family at Citizens National Bank of Texas, PO Box 717, Waxahachie, TX 75168 Account No. 8571515. - Bill Hanna

Cody Dragoo, 50

Dragoo was proud to serve West.

"He was outgoing," said Dragoo's brother-in-law and fellow volunteer fireman, James Miller. "He was a good fireman."

Dragoo served the fire department for about 15 years after moving to West from Montana. He married, Patty Mynar, who is Miller's wife's sister.

He also worked at the West Fertilizer Co., where he lost his life fighting Wednesday's fire.

Dragoo was a big promoter of the annual West Volunteer Fire Department barbecue cookoff, which raised more than $10,000 last month.

Dragoo liked NASCAR, deer hunting and hanging out with his buddies at a local convenience store. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus and served on the Cottonwood Water Supply Corp. in West.

"He liked being around family," Miller said.

Miller said as Dragoo's was brought from the fertilizer plant to a temporary morgue, an honor guard welcomed him.

"We stood at salute," Miller said. - Diane Smith

Joey Pustejovsky, 29

Pustejovsky was the city secretary and also volunteered as a firefighter.

His brother-in-law, David Sebesta, said his sister, Kelly, married Pustejovsky on March 10, 2012, at St. Mary's Church of the Assumption in West.

"He swept her off her feet," Sebesta said. "It was probably one of the best things that ever happened to her because they were so in love. I was so happy for her when she met him because he was so good to her. She needed that in her life."

Pustejovsky brought one son into the marriage, and Kelly brought one son and two daughters, Sebesta said.

"The best thing about Joey was he took my sister's kids and took them as his own," Sebesta said. "They call him 'Daddy.' " - Deanna Boyd

Kenny Harris, 52

Kenny Harris was a captain with Dallas Fire-Rescue and longtime resident of West.

He wasn't involved in fighting the fire, but had rushed to the scene to provide assistance, according to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

"Captain Harris rushed to the scene compelled to provide assistance to his community during this crisis," Rawlings said in a news release. "I want to express my deepest condolences to his family, friends and co-workers."

A 30-year veteran with Dallas-Fire Rescue, Harris was a 52-year-old married father of three grown sons.

"Our hearts are heavy and hurting with the loss of such a great firefighter, great husband and great family man," Dallas Fire Chief Louie Bright III said. "Dallas Fire-Rescue is wrapping its arms around the Harris family to provide comfort and support." - Deanna Boyd

Buck Uptmor, 45

Buck Uptmor was the owner of Uptmor Welding and Fencing in Abbott.

Uptmor, who was not a volunteer firefighter, was trying to round-up horses near the fertilizer plant and get them away from the fire.

"He got there just when it just started," said Bill McKown, a former superintendent with the Abbott school district.

Uptmor was married and had four children, said James Miller, a volunteer firefighter. He said Uptmor used to work for his construction company.

"He worked hard, if anything he worked too hard," McKown said. "He seemed to have too many jobs going at the same time. But I don't have a bad thing to say about him. He was very friendly, very easygoing. He was a good man ."

Miller said Uptmor used to compete in rodeos, liked to hunt and fish and had an annual Fourth of July party. - Bill Hanna

Cyrus A. Reed, 29

Reed was a captain with the Abbott Volunteer Fire Department and he also volunteered with West EMS, said dispatchers he used to work with at Hill County Sheriff's Office in Hillsboro.

"I've known him since 2007, and he was a firefighter when I met him," said Haley Watkins. "He loved firefighting with a passion."

He worked as an engineering mechanic for Titan Specialties Ltd. in Milford, north of Hillsboro.

Reed graduated from Alief Elsik High School near Houston in 2003.

It was no surprise to his friends that the man died trying to help people.

"Anyone who needed him, Cyrus was there," Watkins said. - Terry Evans

Perry Calvin, 37

Calvin was in West taking a course toward becoming an emergency medical technician when the call came in for the fire.

He and others in the class responded to the fire, his father, Navarro Mills Fire Chief Phil Calvin, said.

Phil Calvin said he found out about his son's death on Thursday.

"I had been waiting by the phone," Phil Calvin said. "I had to wait around here because I have a broken leg."

Calvin had served on the Navarro Mills Volunteer Fire Department since 1996, and had been on the Mertens Volunteer Fire Department since 2012. He also had assisted the West Volunteer Fire Department.

Family and friends had rallied around the family, with other fire fighters searching hospitals and going to the scene.

Calvin, a 1994 graduate of Frost High School, was a resident of Emmett in Navarro County, and was married with two children and his wife is due to have their third child in November.

Three accounts have been set up for the Perry Calvin family:

Navarro Mills VFD for Perry Calvin Fund, c/o First Bank & Trust of Dawson, 109 N. Main, Dawson, Texas 76639

First Baptist Church for Benefit of Perry Calvin Family, c/o Community National Bank & Trust of Texas, P.O. Box 624, Corsicana, Texas 75151

For the Calvin Family, c/o Navarro Mills Baptist Church, 1095 FM 667, Purdon, Texas 76679 - Domingo Ramirez Jr.

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