Jury continues deliberations in gas station explosion trial

Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 6:39 PM EDT
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ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Jury deliberations will continue Thursday in the trial of the man accused of involuntary manslaughter in a 2019 explosion at a gas station.

Phillip Westmoreland is the fuel driver who delivered gasoline to the South River Market on that day in May 2019.

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.

Westmoreland is charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

During closing arguments, the Commonwealth and defense agreed the explosion was an accident.

The Commonwealth said Westmoreland overfilled the tanks in the back of the store by 800 gallons during the delivery, which caused the explosion. The defense argued it was faulty equipment that led to the explosion.

“Multiple witnesses told you last week they always smelled fumes on gasoline delivery day. So what does that tell you? It’s an equipment issue related to the delivery of gasoline. Not spilling 800 gallons,” said Robert Dean, defense attorney.

“If you take all these factors into account. The fact of all ten items that Ms. Lester identified, of things the defendant failed to do, yes, it proved that the defendant either knew or should have known that his actions would lead to serious injury or death,” said Jared Moon, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Rockbridge County and the City of Lexington.

The jury started deliberations just after 2:20 p.m. Wednesday, but was not able to reach a verdict around 5:30 p.m. The jury is expected to reconvene at 9 a.m. Thursday.