Search Continues At C-Store Explosion Site

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Search Continues At C-Store Explosion Site

GHENT, W. Va. -- Rescue workers were to resume a search of the debris yesterday at the site of a convenience store explosion that killed four people in southern West Virginia and injured five others, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board said it was sending a team to Ghent. The board makes safety recommendations to industry, labor groups and regulatory agencies.

As CSNews Online reported Wednesday, all that was left of the Flat Top Little General Store after Tuesday's propane blast was a pile of splintered debris, twisted metal framework and a sign showing the price of gasoline. The blast shattered windows up to a mile away and toppled a fire truck, published reports stated.

"The best way to explain that for you is to imagine an explosion in your home and when you walk back up to your home the only thing you see is toothpicks," said state Fire Marshal Sterling Lewis.

Authorities had not determined whether any customers were in the store at the time or if there were more victims, Lewis said.

Four of those injured Tuesday were at Cabell Huntington Hospital on Wednesday and one was at Charleston Area Medical Center, said Celeste Hinzman, spokeswoman for the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The explosion occurred about 10:50 a.m. Tuesday as emergency workers were investigating a report of a propane leak, he said. The victims included a building inspector, emergency medical technician and a volunteer firefighter, according to the AP report.

Lewis said store employees were working on an above-ground tank capable of holding 500 pounds of propane. However, that tank and the store's underground gasoline tanks did not explode. "It is our initial thought that the fumes entered into the building and had to have an ignition point," Lewis said, adding that cold temperatures would have kept the gas close to the ground.

Beckley-based Little General Inc. had no comment.

Gov. Joe Manchin met privately with the victims' relatives at the Ghent Volunteer Fire Department in the rural community about 70 miles southeast of Charleston. "We seem to continue to go through many difficult times in West Virginia," Manchin said at a news conference, referring to recent disasters including the deaths of nine people in a fire at an apartment complex and a string of coal mine accidents.