Source: By MANNY FERNANDEZ of the New York Times
“He’d do anything for anybody,”
Behind a photograph of Buck Uptmor, President Obama spoke April 25th at a service for victims of an explosion in West, Tex. – photo by Charles Dharapak/Associated Press
WEST, Tex. — The emergency responders who rushed to the fire at a fertilizer plant here in the minutes before a deadly explosion gave their lives trying to protect the town’s people and property. Buck Uptmor gave his for its horses.
As people around West realized that flames had broken out at the plant that night, Mr. Uptmor — a short, feisty man who spent nearly all his 45 years riding, racing and tending to horses — drove to a field to rescue some horses near the plant, friends said.
He and 11 other men died that night while serving officially or unofficially as volunteer firefighters and emergency responders. They were an unpretentious lot, not unlike the town they died saving. They were deer hunters and Nascar fans, practical jokers and backyard BB gun marksmen. They tinkered with their cars — Kevin W. Sanders, 33, had a Superman logo painted on his — and they went by their nicknames so often for so many years that their real names faded, as happened to Mr. Uptmor.
They were goateed, mustachioed McLennan County country boys, with wives and ex-wives, children and stepchildren, grown sons and newborn babies.
Cody Dragoo, 50, used to leave notes reading “I miss you” before he went out of town, so his wife, Patty, would see them when she came home. Douglas Snokhous, also 50, worked at the Central Texas Iron Works, but he was often at Donna’s House of Flowers downtown, helping the owner, his wife of 13 years.
Mr. Uptmor’s full name was William R. Uptmor Jr. Few called him William or Billy or Bill. He was Buck. And as those close to him prepared to gather at St. Mary’s Catholic Church of the Assumption in West for his funeral on Saturday, Mr. Uptmor was given a new distinction: honorary firefighter. He was recognized as such by President Obama and other officials at a memorial service on Thursday for the 12 responders.
It was unclear where his remains were found after the explosion killed him, or what became of the horses.
At least two other people died in the blast on April 17, which left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep in one of the worst industrial disasters in Texas.
Buck Uptmor was a son, a brother, a husband and a father of three. He was also a youth baseball coach, a racehorse jockey, a bull-riding and bareback-bronco-riding rodeo cowboy, and the former drummer of the family country band Billy Uptmor and the Makers. Years ago, he found an abandoned coyote pup and raised it as a pet before it wandered away…(CONTINUED)
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