Teen girl dies in home explosion near Pa.-W.Va. border
By Bobby Kerlik and Aaron Aupperlee
Published: Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, 8:27 a.m.
FOLLANSBEE, W.Va. — When George Mozingo's house exploded early Friday, he scoured the burning wreckage desperately in trying to rescue his younger daughter, a neighbor said.
“The father kept screaming, ‘My little girl's in there! My little girl's in there!' ” said Jeannie Moninger, 86, who lives in a house across the street on Eldersville Road that had five windows shattered by the apparent gas explosion. “He was frantic. I'll never forget that.”
Mozingo's home blew up into a fireball shortly after 7 a.m., killing his daughter Hannah Mozingo, an eighth-grader, and injuring his wife, Tracy Mozingo, and other daughter Haley Mozingo. A son, Tyler Mozingo, left early to go hunting and was not home.
Neighbors in the rural middle-class neighborhood said the blast shook homes miles away and blew out windows in at least six surrounding homes. All that remained of the Mozingo home, where they had lived for only a few months, was a pile of splintered, burned wood, wisps of pink insulation and cracked bricks. A mattress, laundry baskets and shoes were scattered in the yard. A rear deck, once connected to the house, lay on its side in the backyard. Bits of insulation clung to treetops more than 50 yards away.
“I've been to a number of these natural gas explosions,” Brooke County Sheriff Chuck Jackson said. “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.”
Jackson said officials did not know what caused the explosion but called it an “apparent natural gas explosion.”
Tracy and Haley Mozingo remained in stable condition in Trinity Health System in Steubenville, Ohio, officials said. George Mozingo was flown to UPMC Mercy in Uptown and was in critical condition, officials said.
A woman who declined to give her name said she was driving nearby and was the first to arrive on the scene. The woman got out of her car to help Tracy Mozingo, who was outside the house with both of her daughters getting ready to take them to school. But Hannah ran back inside to go to the bathroom, and the house exploded seconds later.
Chris Grishkevich, 38, said he has known George Mozingo since high school. Grishkevich's son dated Hannah Mozingo for a time.
“She was just a quiet, sweet, innocent girl,” Grishkevich said, surveying the rubble of his friend's home. “They're just an awesome family. George would do anything for you. He was huge into his family. They were very close. They loved to go camping, hunting, fishing. Hannah was in eighth grade, 12 or 13 years old. She was a cheerleader.”
Grishkevich owns a deer processing business and said Hannah brought him the first deer she killed a few years ago. He said George Mozingo works in the detailing shop at a Ford dealership in nearby Steubenville. Tyler and Haley are in high school.
Students at Follansbee Middle School, where the girl attended 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 to parents. Some parents picked up their children during the day, Johnson said.
“Brooke County is a tight community,” Johnson said.
Workers from Mountaineer Gas Co. walked around what was left of the home. In a statement, the company said it was cooperating with authorities, but it was too early to determine a cause.
Next-door neighbor James Pannett, 46, said he smelled natural gas outside about 6:15 a.m. and called the sheriff's office within 15 minutes. The fire department arrived by 6:45 a.m. with a gas detection machine checking Pannett's gas lines. Pannett said firefighters told him that they would notify the gas company.
Pannett said he was outside near his truck about 7:05 a.m. when the Mozingo house exploded. The blast blew off a portion of his house and knocked in windows.
“I saw a huge cloud coming towards me. I dropped to the ground and started praying,” Pannett said. “Stuff was flying everywhere. (George Mozingo) was screaming that his daughter was in there.”
Mark Jacobi, 68, of Lake Hopatcong, N.J., was sleeping in his mother-in-law's home on the other side of the Mozingo house. A piece of ceiling fell and hit him in the face. Windows and portions of the wall were damaged.
“I was sound asleep, and I heard a tremendous explosion. I thought a vehicle was going through the house,” Jacobi said. “When I looked out the window, debris was falling out of the sky and flames were in the air. Their house was totally engulfed in flames.
“It's a total tragedy. I feel sorry for that family.”
A donation fund for the Mozingo family has been established at Progressive Bank, 744 Charles St., Wellsburg, WV 26070.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kovacevic: Keeping faith in Letang is simple
- Malkin to miss 2nd straight game Saturday
- Greensburg Diocese decides that Trent Bocan is “no longer superintendent” of Catholic schools
- Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript Dec. 6, 2013
- Review: Broadway wins in live ‘Sound of Music’
- Steelers lineman Adams gets 2nd chance to start
- Steelers rookie RB Bell gets respect from teammates, foes alike
- Four school directors sworn in on Chartiers Valley board
- ‘Gritty but vibrant world’ of Braddock lures director of ‘Out of the Furnace’
- Tax hike could hit Seven Fields business owners
- Mt. Lebanon native, actor Manganiello: Mind focus is the key to fitness