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Teen girl reported killed in W.Va. house blast

FOLLANSBEE, W.Va. -- One person was killed and at least three others were injured in a Friday morning house explosion in West Virginia's Northern Panhandle, Brooke County Sheriff Chuck Jackson said.

Jackson said 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 news release saying the house was owned by George and Tracy Mozingo. The department did not identify who was hurt.

Jackson said he would withhold the name of the person killed until an autopsy confirms the identity. However, close family friend Chris Grishkevich told WTOV-TV that the victim was the couple's daughter, 13-year-old Hannah Mozingo.

Grishkevich said he and George Mozingo have been friends since high school, and that Grishkevich is 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.

At about 6:30 a.m. there was a 911 call from a neighbor of the Mozingos, reporting a possible gas leak, according to Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

Messina said the Hooverson Heights Volunteer Fire Department responded, but did not find anything out of the ordinary. The explosion occurred about 30 minutes later, just after 7 a.m., while firefighters were still in the area.

The windows were blown out at the fire department, about 150 yards from the explosion.

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.

"You could see the smoke from the other side of the hill," he said.

The state Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the cause of the blast.

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 stated, vowing to cooperate with investigators and provide more information to the public when it can.

Headquartered in Charleston, Mountaineer is the state's largest natural gas distribution company, with about 220,000 customers.

Gazette-Mail staff writer David Gutman contributed to this report.


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