Sissonville, WV residents remember massive pipeline explosion on - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Sissonville, WV residents remember massive pipeline explosion one year later

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A natural gas pipeline explosion in Dec. 2012 scorched part of Interstate 77. A natural gas pipeline explosion in Dec. 2012 scorched part of Interstate 77.
SISSONVILLE, WV -

The view outside Carl Johnson's front door looks very different than it did a year ago.

"I'm up all hours of the night," said Johnson, 57, of Sissonville. "That day changed my life all the way around."

Johnson said he was standing on his front porch the afternoon of Dec. 11, 2012. An explosion across the street changed his life forever.

But first, the blast threw him against his front door.

"It went boom, and I watched that house across the creek over there like a bomb went off," Johnson recalled. "You could feel the heat burning your face. Matter of fact, it scorched my whiskers."

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board said a 20-inch natural transmission line, owned by Columbia Gas Transmission, ruptured and hurled part of the pipe more than 40 feet.

Preliminary reports suggests that the pipe was simply too old and corroded.

Johnson and his attorney, Michael Del Giudice, filed a lawsuit against Columbia Gas Transmission earlier this year. In the months following the blast, Johnson said the company provided him with a place to stay and several thousand dollars.

But the resident said no amount of money changes what happened that day. Johnson claimed the explosion affected his ability to see and hear.

Del Giudice said the parties reached an agreement in November 2013. Johnson said he had yet to receive his settlement checks as of Wednesday. He tells 13 News he hopes to leave the past behind and purchase a new home elsewhere in Sissonville.

"That messed my life up," Johnson said.

Other residents said they're happy to be moving on with their lives.

The McMillions lived right where the pipeline ruptured last year. The blast decimated their house, vehicles, and property--everything they owned.

The couple reached an agreement with Columbia earlier this year. They purchased a new home down the street with their settlement money.

"Our family has got closer over the past year," said Shirley McMillion. "We have a lot of mixed feelings about it. Yes, it was difficult losing everything we had. But we have to feel blessed."

Shirley and her husband, DJ, were not home at the time of the explosion.

Attorney Truman Griffith said he represented seven people who filed lawsuits against the company that owned the pipeline. Six of seven plaintiffs reached settlements over the past year, Griffith said.

The lawyer continues to fight for Margaret Johnson, a woman who lived on Sissonville Drive. Johnson recently sold her house, but Griffith explained the blast caused her irreparable emotional harm.

"It's baffling why they wouldn't want to negotiate her case," said Griffith, who intends to move forward with the lawsuit.

"I can tell you that we have worked tirelessly with many of the residents that were impacted by this incident," said Katie Martin, a spokesperson for Columbia Pipeline Group.

Martin said she couldn't comment on specific litigation or settlements. She did mention that the company has settled 85 percent of its claims related to the explosion.