Investigation of house explosion under way

FOLLANSBEE – An assistant state fire marshal and representatives of Mountaineer Gas and the state Public Service Commission on Friday afternoon were at the scene of a natural gas explosion that destroyed a house on Eldersville Road, killing a girl and injuring three others.

George Mozingo was flown by medical helicopter to Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh for treatment of burns he sustained in the blast at his home at 2485 Eldersville Road, while his wife, Tracy, and daughter, Hailie, were transported to Trinity Medical Center. Tracy and Hailie were in stable condition Friday evening, according to officials with Trinity Medical Center. George’s condition wasn’t immediately available.

Another daughter, Hannah, didn’t escape the blast. A third child, Tyler, wasn’t home when it occurred.

Ronald “Mackey” Ayersman, assistant state fire marshal, said Friday the site of the blast was being investigated to determine the source of a natural gas leak that spurred it.

Jim Pannett, the Mozingos’ next-door neighbor at 2481 Eldersville Road, said shortly before the explosion, he smelled gas outside his home and called 911.

He said members of the Hooverson Heights Volunteer Fire Department responded, using equipment to test the area for gas.

Brooke County Sheriff Chuck Jackson said the volunteer firefighters didn’t find a source and left for their nearby substation to report the odor to utility officials. The explosion occurred at about 7:07 a.m., according to Jackson, minutes after the firefighters’ departure.

Jackson couldn’t confirm reports that a natural gas odor also had been reported earlier this week.

The Hooverson Heights department was among many dispatched to the scene following the blast, which was heard as far away as Weirton, Steubenville and Wellsburg.

Josh Riggs, who lives on nearby Woodvue Lane, said he awoke to “a huge flash. It (the blast) shook the house. I thought a transformer had blown in front of my house.”

As he approached the site, he saw fire rising high from the scene and heard smaller explosions, he said.

“I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. It was just unbelievable,” Riggs said.

The blast shattered the windows of several homes in the vicinity as well as the fire department’s substation. Shards of wood, glass and other material lay across the road and in neighbors’ yards.

Pieces of insulation were blown into treetops high above the area.

Jeannie Moninger, who lives across the street, reflected on the explosion as she sat in her living room not far from her front door, which was blown off its hinges. A picture mirror sat atop the sofa where she had been laying when it occurred, she said.

A window above her bed, where she normally would lay, was blown out.

Throughout her house pictures, knickknacks and other objects lay on the floor, blown from the walls.

“It even blew out the back of my commode. I had to ask someone to shut off the water,” Moninger said.

“I’m just a little shook up. It happened so fast. I thought the house was on fire,” she said.

Moninger didn’t know the Mozingos well but said she was saddened by their loss.

After hearing the blast, Kim Harms came to investigate her grandmother’s house and found what she believes is the screen door of the Mozingo home laying in the driveway behind it.

Harms, who lives next to her grandmother’s house, said upon hearing the explosion, “I thought a tree landed on our house.”

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