Firefighter who survived injuries from West fertilizer plant explosion dies while working on I-35
WEST, Texas - A volunteer firefighter who survived being injured in the West fertilizer plant explosion 10 years ago has died.
Eddie Hykel was killed responding to a vehicle fire Tuesday. He's now being honored for the service he gave to his community.
The town of West, located off Interstate 35 between Hillsboro and Waco, is approaching 10 years since a deadly fertilizer plant explosion captured national attention.
Hykel spent years recovering from that 2013 explosion that killed 15 people, injured dozens more, and caused extensive property damage in the small town.
The 60-year-old eagerly jumped back into public service after healing from multiple injuries.
"He was the first to get on that engine and go fight a fire," West Mayor Tommy Muska said. "He came to work early, left late and a public servant like that is hard to find. He had a great attitude about everything."
Muska said Hykel’s "hard worker" dedication was with him until the moment he died Tuesday, while responding to a vehicle fire on I-35.
"The car fire occurred at about 1 o’clock. The crew went out there, about five West firemen and some DPS officers," Muska said.
The first responders blocked off the inside lane with an engine and DPS vehicles to create a safety buffer.
A truck driver did not see them until it was too late. The driver crashed into the engine and a DPS cruiser.
"Eddie, unfortunately, was on the front, standing in front of that car and that was pushed on top of him," Muska said.
Now, a memorial, complete with Hykel’s boots and trademark hat, adorn the fire station, and people like Carolyn and Joe Pustejovsky, who are no strangers to loss, are paying their respects.
"We lost our son in the West explosion and everyone came to help us and we know these guys are hurting because the anniversary is coming up. So, we just thought we’d bring them some refreshments to tie them over," Carolyn Pustejovsky said. "I just think his brothers up in heaven came to get him. I really do."
"He’s a perfect example of what West is all about," Joe Pustejovsky said.