NewsThe West Explosion: A Decade Later


'I knew he was there': Family of fallen West firefighter remembers their own

Posted at 10:49 AM, Apr 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-18 23:09:31-04

WEST, Texas — Perhaps no one feels the impact more deeply of what happened in West 10 years ago, than those who lost a loved one.

Joe and Carolyn Pustejovsky lost a son, Joey Jr., that April 17th evening.

They can still recount vivid details from the hours and days immediately following the fertilizer plant explosion.

“I remember that day. I haven’t forgotten anything about that day,” said Joe. “You better be prepared for something because it’s coming. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it’s going to.”


The family lives just one street over from where a memorial dedicated to the fallen now stands.

Carolyn, who has lived in town her entire life, stops by often to reflect.

“I replay it every day, just thinking about if, what, should’ve, could’ve. It’s just etched to me, it’s just a memory not to be replaced,” she says.

She was actually driving when the explosion occurred just after 7:50 p.m.

She says there was such a blast force that her car somehow ended up facing the other direction from which she was originally driving.


It soon dawned on her, and her husband, where their volunteer firefighting son must be.

“I knew he was there. I didn’t know where but I knew he was there. It was an eerie feeling, I tell ya,” says Joe.

The 29 year old was one of 12 first responders to die that day. Three others were also killed.

The time since hasn't been easy, but dad and mom both say they see a lot of their son in the grandson, who they've helped raise.

“It's definitely a healing process. Ten years is a long time but at the same time you never forget,” says Joe.


Carolyn says they've never considered moving. West is home and despite the community's enormous loss, there has been enormous progress and healing.

“Joey died doing what he loved to do, so I can’t complain as a mother,” she says. "The community is closer together."