FOLLANSBEE, W.Va. – One person was killed and at least three others were injured in an early morning house explosion Friday in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle, Brooke County Sheriff Chuck Jackson said.
Jackson also told media outlets that a natural gas leak was reported just before the house blew up in the Hooverson Heights neighborhood just outside Follansbee.
A neighbor made the report, Jackson said, but the blast came so soon after the call that the gas company hadn’t even been alerted yet.
The sheriff’s department issued a press release saying the home was owned by George and Tracy Mozingo but did not say who was hurt.
Jackson said he would withhold the name of the person killed until an autopsy confirms the identity. But close family friend Chris Grishkevich told WTOV the victim was the couple’s daughter, 13-year-old Hannah Mozingo.
Grishkevich and George Mozingo have been friends since high school, and Grishkevich is now coordinating donations for the family.
“It’s something you see on a movie,” he said. “It’s just crazy how gas can build up and … just destroy a house. Destroy a family.”
Kathy Kidder, superintendent of Brooke County schools, said a counseling team was on hand Friday for students and staff.
Six nearby homes were severely damaged, and some are now uninhabitable.
“As far as a natural gas explosion,” Jackson said, “this is as bad as I’ve ever seen.”
The power of the blast blew out a front door and shattered windows in a house across the street.
“I thought lightning had struck a house or a tree had fallen,” said Kim Stoneking, who lives about a mile away and ran to see what had happened. “It was too big to be a car wreck.”
Louie Headman said the explosion woke him and shook his house nearby.
“You could see the smoke from the other side of the hill,” he said.
The West Virginia Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating.
Mountaineer Gas Co. issued a statement saying it was too early to determine the cause of the blast.
“We have surveyed the area, and there do not appear to be any safety concerns at this time,” the company said, vowing to cooperate with the investigators and provide more information as it can.
Headquartered in Charleston, Mountaineer is the state’s largest natural gas distribution company with approximately 220,000 customers.