Man speaks out about experience at South River Market just before it exploded

By  | 

ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) — The effects of Friday's explosion at the South River Market have rippled through Rockbridge County and the small town of Buena Vista.

Pete Smith has owned a fruit stand for six years and the M and P Market in downtown Buena Vista for two years. Born and raised in Buena Vista, Smith knows South River Market very well. In fact, it wasn't 10 minutes before Friday's explosion that Smith was in the store talking with the owner, Roger Roberts.

"He had called me on Thursday and gave me a list of stuff he would like, and when I went down to pick my stuff up, I picked his as well, and delivered it out to him and went in the store, and he came out and helped me unload it," Smith, the owner of M and P Market, said.

But Smith noticed something a little off. He said, "I told him, I said, 'Roger, what's all this gas smell?' And he said, 'I don't know,' he said, 'Normally when they load my tanks, when they fill them,' he said 'I'll get a little bit of smell from the vent' but he said, 'I don't know this morning,' and I said Roger, you can't hardly breathe in here, this is bad."

Roger said he'd check it out, so Smith left, and then, within minutes, Smith's daughter-in-law called.

"She said, 'Did you hear that South River Market has blown up,' and I said 'No, but I can believe that it would,' at that time I was hoping that they had gotten away, you know, without anybody getting hurt, but it didn't happen that way," Smith said.

Police have confirmed that Roger Roberts was killed in the explosion. They have not confirmed the identity of the other three people killed or the others injured, but family members say they also lost Roger's son and his granddaughter, in addition to a customer.

"It was a great family, and they were friends, and he would do anything on Earth for you to help you, and his wife as well," Smith said.

Smith even coached Roger's only son in baseball. He said, "It's going to take a while for people to really grasp what has happened, and I don't know what the result will be in their minds, but in mine, I just hope that the ones left here can deal with it and go on with life."

Smith, like most from this tight-knit community, is still coping with the tragedy, and he will be for a long time.

Investigation into the cause of the blast continues.

Copyright 2019 WDBJ. All rights reserved.