Tragedy spurs support for Mozingo family

FOLLANSBEE – The family who lost a daughter and home to a natural gas explosion Friday is receiving help from many directions.

As they recover from injuries sustained in the blast and cope with the death of their daughter, Hannah, George and Tracy Mozingo may find some solace in knowing there are many who care.

Friends of the Mozingos said the couple and their other daughter, Haley, continue to recuperate from the injuries they sustained, while Tyler, the Mozingos’ son – who wasn’t home at the time – stays with family.

Local firefighters, including volunteer members of the Hooverson Heights Fire Department, witnessed the tragedy first hand when they were called to the Mozingo’s home on Eldersville Road and found rubble in its place.

The West Virginia Red Knights Chapter 6, a motorcycle group of firefighters and supporters, established its Victims of Fire fund, and through it, the group is providing $1,500 to George and Tracy Mozingo, said Fred Marsh, Red Knights’ president.

The group also will make a smaller donation to the Mozingos’ neighbor, Jim Pannett, whose home and place of business sustained damage from the blast.

The incident occurred just a day before Follansbee Christmas in the Park, an annual two-day festival at Follansbee Park that raises funds for a local food pantry, children’s home and a youth with special medical needs.

Bill Secrist, who co-chairs the event with Kathy Santoro, suggested putting out a water cooler bottle for donations to the Mozingos. Santoro said she and fellow Christmas in the Park committee members thought it was a great idea.

“That’s what we’re about – helping others,” she said.

Santoro said one civic group operating a booth at the festival challenged another to top its donation, a church group challenged another church, and many festival-goers stopped to drop bills and coins into the bottle. But the committee members were as surprised as anyone when they found that it contained $4,101.

The schools the Mozingo children attended also have reached out to help.

Tyler and Haley are a junior and sophomore, respectively, at Brooke High School. Hannah was in eighth grade at Follansbee Middle School.

The high school’s drama club had already scheduled the Be Festival last Friday, a new event to raise money for a scholarship to be given in memory of recent Brooke graduate Angela Casinelli.

Toni Shute, school principal, said a drawing for Pittsburgh Penguins tickets added at the last minute raised $400 for the family.

She added the school adopts a community service project each month. This month students were to sell pizzas to raise money for the school itself, but the money will go instead to the Mozingos, she said.

Shute said upon hearing news of the tragedy, many staff members brought in donations of cash and gift cards.

She added there also are plans to accept donations at this week’s football game and to sell camouflage rubber bracelets.

The bracelets were inspired by Hannah’s love of hunting, a pastime she enjoyed with her father and brother.

Kim Johnson, Follansbee Middle School principal, said Hannah also was a cheerleader for the Follansbee city youth football league. The players plan to wear the letter “H” on their helmets at their next game.

Johnson added donations also will be accepted at the school’s football game against Wellsburg Middle School on Oct. 24 at Brooke High School.

She said pupils at her school have been invited to write messages to the Mozingo family on paper angels to be displayed at the school. They may make a donation but it’s not required.

Johnson said several counselors from the school district were on hand Friday to help pupils trying to come to terms with Hannah’s death. She said as news of the tragedy broke, many parents chose to pick up their children before the school day ended.

Johnson said counseling was to continue today.

Johnson noted substitute teachers came in Friday afternoon to relieve Hannah’s eighth-grade teachers.

Marty Bartz, assistant superintendent, said substitute teachers, former school counselors and others offered their services.

“People just wanted, in any way they could, to help,” Bartz said.

Jim Piccirillo, school board president, said, “In my lifetime I can’t recall such an outpouring of love and support, not only from Brooke County but our neighboring states and around the country, offering to help this family.

“I was fortunate to work with Weisberger’s to get the young man and his father essential clothing, like boots and coats,” Piccirillo said, adding more than $1,000 was donated in less than an hour for the clothing.

“This story has not ended, and I urge everyone to find a source they can use to help in every way possible. They (the Mozingos) will need your love and support for a very long time,” he said.