A Virginia jury was dismissed without reaching a verdict in the case of a fuel truck driver accused of causing a gas station explosion that killed several people in 2019.
On Thursday, members of the jury hearing the case of fuel truck driver Phillip Westmoreland were unable to reach a verdict, opening the door for a mistrial, according to WDBJ7.
Westmoreland, 53, was charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
The jury deliberated for about three hours on Wednesday. Deliberations continued into Thursday, with the jury informing the judge that they were unable to reach a decision on Thursday afternoon.
Another hearing will be held to determine whether the case ends in a mistrial.
The fatal incident occurred in May 2019 at the South River Market gas station in Rockbridge County, Virginia.
GAS STATION EXPLOSION: Ryan Clark said he was going to stop at South River Market in Buena Vista when he heard a boom and the gas station caught fire. He took this video of the scene. More details on 13 News Midday at noon. pic.twitter.com/G4vh7AVlWm
— Emily Swecker (@EmilySweckerTV) May 10, 2019
Virginia prosecutors argued that Westmoreland overfilled the gas station tanks by 800 gallons during a delivery, leading an explosion that killed gas station owner Roger Lee Roberts, gas station employees Kevin Tate Roberts and Samantha Gail Lewis, and gas station customer Paul Dewayne Ruley. Four other people were hospitalized with injuries.
Rockbridge County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jared Moon told the jury in his opening statement, “Our evidence will show that the defendant was anything but a novice at delivering gasoline. Our case against Mr. Westmoreland will prove that as he was delivering just shy of 5,800 gallons of gasoline at the South River Market that morning, he overfilled the storage tanks by more than 800 gallons, which led to a massive explosion and fire that caused the deaths of four people.”
Moon also suggested that Westmoreland was distracted due to an upcoming vacation and because he was texting with his girlfriend around the time of the fuel delivery.
Westmoreland’s defense argued that faulty equipment caused the explosion. Defense expert witness Dr. John Cignatta said that he found evidence of missing safety disrupters that would have halted 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,” Defense attorney Robert Dean said during closing arguments.