3 dead, 4 hospitalized after explosion at Rockbridge County gas station

Fire started at the South River Market

By Heather Butterworth - Digital Content Producer, Irisha Jones - Reporter, Shayne Dwyer - Reporter, Katie Potter - Producer

​​​​​​​ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. - UPDATE: Saturday, 4:00 p.m.

The State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation confirms 3 sets of remains were recovered from the site of Friday's gas station explosion and fire.  According to the newly released statement from State Police, the remains have been taken to the Medical Examiner's Officer to be identified.  Troopers say this could take several days.

State police say this fire is considered a criminal investigation, as the cause of the blaze is still unknown.  The statement says until criminal activity can be ruled out, it will be treated as a criminal matter.

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Virginia State Police confirm they have found the remains of one person after a massive fire at a Rockbridge County gas station Friday morning. 

That person has not yet been identified.

With three to five people still missing, police say they will stay on the scene until everyone is found after the explosion that witnesses say was so powerful, the ground shook.

At 9:50 a.m., members of the Rockbridge County Sheriff’s Office and Rockbridge County Fire and Rescue were called to the scene of an explosion at the South River Market on Old Buena Vista Road at its intersection with South River Road.

GALLERY: Multiple people injured after Rockbridge County gas station fire

At this stage, Sgt. Rick Garletts, with Virginia State Police, said police and fire crews are working to account for all the individuals that may have been located in the building at the time of the explosion.

Four adults have been taken to hospitals across the region and are being treated for injuries, according to Garletts. 

At least seven agencies responded to the explosion, according to Buena Vista's fire chief.

The chief said this is the largest fire he knows of in the county for quite some time.

The Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation is conducting an investigation into the cause of the explosion, which at this time, 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. And by the time I got to the tracks there, you could just see there's this utter devastation," said Ryan Clark who lives near the gas station.

(Video Credit: Ryan Clark)

While clean-up continues, which could last for days, Old Buena Vista Road will remain closed at the intersection of South River Road. 

The gas station is close to Mountain View Elementary, so the school was evacuated Friday morning. Students and staff members went to Rockbridge County High School and parents were able to pick up their children. 

Courtesy of Regie Schofield

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