FOLLANSBEE, W.Va. - A teenage girl was killed and her father, mother and sister were injured in an explosion reported near the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border early Friday morning.
Authorities said the explosion happened at a home in Follansbee, W.Va. -- about 50 minutes from Pittsburgh just over the Washington County line.
Emergency dispatchers said the explosion happened at George and Tracy Mozingo’s Eldersville Road home around 7 a.m.
“I've been to a number of these natural gas explosions,” Brooke County Sheriff Chuck Jackson said at a press conference. “This is as bad as anything I've ever seen. I don't have words to describe it. There's nothing left of that house.”
Authorities told Channel 11 News that Hannah Mozingo, 13, died in the explosion.
Friends of the Mozingo family became very emotional when talking about Hannah. They said she was a cheerleader at Follansbee Middle School.
On Friday night, Hannah's classmates put together a candlelight vigil in her memory. They remembered the girl who they said preferred mud over makeup and loved camping just as much as she loved sleepovers with her friends. Many in attendance wore bright orange camouflage hunting colors because it was Hannah's favorite.
"We had a bonfire, slid down the hill in the mud for a birthday party," one friend recalled.
"Camo was her favorite color," another remembered. "Anytime you saw her, she had something camo on -- in camo with country music and candles in hand."
Jackson said George Mozingo was rushed to UPMC Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, and is in serious condition. Tracy Mozingo and a second daughter, according to Jackson, were taken to Trinity Hospital in Steubenville, Ohio. Tracy was in stable condition as of late Friday night. The second daughter's condition is not yet known.
A third child was not home when the explosion occurred, Jackson said.
Channel 11's Dave Bondy reported that about 30 minutes before the explosion, 911 received a call from a neighbor, later identified as James Pannett, that there was a smell of gas in the area.
Pannett’s son, 23-year-old Nick Pannett, said the Mozingo family moved into the home about three months ago. He also said his father was outside at the time of the explosion, but he wasn’t injured.
“Dust was flying, and he had to jump to the ground and cover his head,” Nick Pannett said.
Crews at the scene said at least seven nearby homes were damaged in the explosion.
Sharon Stewart, 67, said she heard one big boom and then could hear a crackling afterward.
“I live in the valley below, and I have a stone house, and it blew five of the stones in,” she said.
Some of the windows are blown out on the house where Barbara Bottorf, 77, lives two doors down.
“I was just getting out of bed,” she said. “I thought it was World War II. I thought our house fell in.”
Students at Follansbee Middle School streamed in and out of counselors' offices, said principal Kim Johnson. The district brought in a crisis team, made counselors available to students, provided substitute teachers to give staff breaks during the day and sent a phone message home to parents. Some parents picked up their children during the day, Johnson said.
“Brooke County is a tight community,” Johnson said, adding that counselors and nurses were available at other schools in the area where friends and relatives attend.
The cause of the explosion remains under investigation.
Mountaineer Gas released the following statement Friday regarding the explosion:
“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers go out to the affected families in Follansbee.
Regarding the home explosion in Follansbee this morning, it's still too early to determine the cause.
We have surveyed the area, and there do not appear to be any safety concerns at this time. While all the facts are being determined, we want to assure the public we are on the scene with the Fire Marshal and local emergency officials.
We will continue to work in conjunction with the Fire Marshal as he makes his determinations and recommendations. As the situation unfolds and we have more information, we will provide additional updates.”
Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.
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