ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — The trial for a Roanoke man facing multiple manslaughter charges in connection with the 2019 explosion at a Rockbridge County gas station proceeded on Tuesday, starting with opening statements and then taking an emotional turn when survivors spoke about the incident.

As the trial got underway, people remembered going into the South River Market every day for some type of snack, coffee, or grocery item.

“I used to go there every morning and chat with the older people around. I would always order two coffees,” said one witness.

However, everything changed on May 10, 2019 when an explosion at the store killed four people, including the owner of the market, Roger Lee Roberts; two employees, Kevin Tate Roberts and Samantha Gail Lewis; and a patron, Paul Dewayne Ruley.

Phillip Ray Westmoreland, the driver of the fuel delivery truck, was arrested on March 19, 2021 and charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the incident, according to Rockbridge County court records.

During the opening statements, Jared Moon — the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Rockbridge County and the City of Lexington — said the prosecution would prove that Westmoreland was negligent, adding that he was irresponsibly using his phone while overfilling the fuel tanks by more than 800 gallons, which reportedly led to the catastrophic event.

According to Moon, Westmoreland was extremely experienced at his job, but was distracted that day because of an upcoming vacation.

In addition, Moon says that Westmoreland ignored what the Commonwealth called red flags and left without alerting anyone.

However, Westmoreland’s attorney disagreed, saying he is a kind-hearted guy with more than a decade of experience delivering fuel.

The defense continued to say that it takes about 20 minutes to disperse gas in the store’s tanks, adding that it was more of a tragic accident.

Following the opening statements, the court heard some emotional testimony from people who were at the South River Market when the explosion happened, some of whom were injured in the incident.

Included among the witnesses Roger’s widow, who described how she heard the explosion and later saw the smoke after backing out of her driveway.

Ruley’s wife also took the stand to testify about her late husband.

“He was the most kindest man you would ever meet. He was a good husband, great dad, wonderful grandfather, and very missed,” she said.

One survivor even remembered being thrown 20 to 25 feet by the explosion.

“I heard this boom. That’s the last thing I remember. It blew me between the pool and the gas pump right there,” the witness said as he pointed to a picture of the station on the monitor.

Another survivor who was close to Roger shared his memory of when the store owner was pulled out of the rubble.

The trial is set to continue at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 17.