An explosion at a gas station in Ghent, WV, has leveled a store, killed at least four people including a firefighter & building inspector, and seriously injured five others.
It happened at about 10:45am at the Little General Store near the entrance to Flat Top Lake and Winterplace Ski Resort. Dispatchers tell us firefighters were responding to the gas station--because someone smelled a strong odor of gas--when the explosion happened.
West Virginia State Fire Marshal Sterling Lewis said a propane tank near the store leaked--and the fumes entered the store. Lewis said something in the store ignited the propane, causing the explosion. He said the tanks did not explode.
The explosion leveled the building and spread across 100 square yards, according to Lewis. We're told four people were killed, five were injured. Rescue workers called off the search early Tuesday evening and set up a perimeter around the building. No additional victims were found as of late Tuesday night but the search will resume early Wednesday morning.
We're also told the blast occurred just as a fire truck was pulling into the lot. A dispatcher said there were reports of damage to the truck.
Lewis said the blast also damaged at least seven houses, and caused windows to break in a nearby store.
A spokesman for Raleigh General Hospital says five people injured in the explosion were brought there for treatment.
At least three fire departments, 15 ambulances, officials with county and State Police, the Division of Highways and regional response teams were dispatched to the scene.
All throughout the day, area residents came by to see what was left of the store. The Little General was one of the first convenience stores in the area and was build sometime in the 1980's.
Wendy Boardman worked at the Little General store and was scheduled to work this morning but was running late. She witnessed the destruction from her house -- well away from the site of the explosion. According to Boardman she smelled a "chemical smell" then saw the black smoke rolling from the store.
The Red Cross is offering counseling to families affected by the blast.
Stay with NewsChannel 3 and WSAZ.com for the latest information on the investigation.