Court in recess as jury deliberates verdict in Rockbridge County explosion trial

After over three hours of deliberation, the jury asked if they could return on Thursday

BUENA VISTA, Va. – The jury is deciding the fate of the man accused in a deadly gas station explosion in Rockbridge County that killed four people in 2019.

On Wednesday, jurors began deliberating the fate of a Roanoke truck driver, Phillip Westmoreland, charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter for the explosion at South River Market in May of 2019.

After over three hours of deliberation, the jury asked if they could return on Thursday with to continue.

Wednesday, the jury heard closing arguments from both sides.

The Commonwealth argued that Westmoreland was distracted during the delivery and overfilled the gas tanks by 800 gallons that day, which caused vapor fumes to leak out, eventually sparking the fire.

“The evidence proves there was an overfill. The defendant’s calculations prove there was an overfill,” Jared Moon, Rockbridge County Commonwealth’s attorney said.

The Commonwealth also said that while it might have been unintentional, Westmoreland acted carelessly that day.

The defense argued the explosion happened because of the faulty equipment at the gas station and said multiple witnesses testified they always smelled fumes on gasoline delivery day.

“It should have been shut down until it was fixed. It was not in safe condition. He said it wasn’t up to code. It was an equipment issue,” Robert Dean, the defense attorney said during the trial.

The defense also said that Westmoreland did his job that day and filled the amount of gas that was ordered by the gas station owner.

If convicted, Westmoreland could face up to 40 years behind bars.

The jury is slated to return from recess on Thursday morning to continue their deliberations.

About the Authors

Alli Graham came aboard the digital team as an evening digital content producer in June 2022.

You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!

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