Trial underway for man accused in fatal Rockbridge County explosion

Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 7:08 PM EDT
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ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - The trial for the man accused of involuntary manslaughter in a fatal gas explosion in Rockbridge County continued Tuesday.

Phillip Westmoreland is charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the explosion at the South River Market in May 2019. He is the person who delivered gas to the South River Market the day of the explosion.

The owner, Roger Lee Roberts, two employees, Kevin Tate Roberts and Samantha Gail Lewis, and a patron, Paul Dewayne Ruley, died as a result of that explosion.

During opening statements, the Commonwealth said Westmoreland was very experienced at his job but was distracted that day because of an upcoming vacation. The Commonwealth’s Attorney said Westmoreland ignored what the Commonwealth called red flags and left without alerting anyone.

Westmoreland’s defense said he took his time with the delivery and this was a horrible accident.

On the stand, Roger Roberts’ widow described how she heard about the explosion.

”And I started down the driveway and I could see the smoke from the driveway and I just prayed,” said Roberts.

During the afternoon, the court heard emotional testimony from people who were at the market when the explosion happened; some were injured.

One man spoke about what he saw when they pulled the owner, Roger Roberts, out of the rubble.

The trial is expected to continue Wednesday.

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