Buena Vista, Virginia: Three sets of remains were found in the rubble of a gas station explosion in Rockbridge County, Virginia, state police said. Matching the remains to identities could take several days, Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation Sgt. Rick Garletts said in a statement Saturday afternoon.
The explosion at the fuel stop, called South River Market, was reported about 9:30 Saturday morning, and rescue crews have been combing through the rubble in an initial search for three to five people who might have been at the site before the blast.
Four people injured in the explosion were taken to Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital hospital.
State police opened a criminal investigation at the behest of local authorities. However, Garletts emphasized that every investigation by his bureau is a criminal inquiry until the facts prove otherwise.
State police initially said in a statement on the explosion, “At this time it does not appear suspicious in nature.”
“All you could see was probably an 80-foot tower of flame and smoke going everywhere and debris everywhere,” he said. “And by the time I got to the tracks there, you could just see there’s this utter devastation.”
The Rockbridge County School Board said a nearby elementary school was evacuated Friday. Police said the remains were transported to the local medical examiner for an autopsy.
Russell Williams, a resident, said he felt the explosion from his farm.
“Immediately it was just a big ball of fire,” Williams told reporters. “The roof blew off the store, and went to the right of the store, and then the trusses blew up and went to the front of the store.”