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'You should be outraged': O'Fallon neighbors demand changes after home explosion

Neighbors held a town hall forum Friday where many of those affected by the explosion sounded off. They say there's strength in numbers.

O'FALLON, Mo. — People who live in O'Fallon, Missouri, are joining forces and demanding changes following this year's gas explosion that destroyed a home and damaged several others. 

They held a town hall forum Friday where many of those affected by the explosion sounded off. They say there's strength in numbers and if the community can come together, they believe they can get change at the state level.

It was back in March when a third-party contractor was digging in an O'Fallon subdivision and struck a Spire gas line, which caused a major explosion.

Michelle Van Meter was at work when her husband called.

"His words to me were ‘a bomb has gone off and there's three houses on fire,’" she said.

They had to stay in a hotel for a month. As their home is under repair, they're now staying in temporary shelter. But they’re sorting through a lot.

"When you have to deal with insurance companies, it’s stuff that you don't think about. For instance -- your mattress that you bought years ago, do you still have the receipt? Because I don’t and then they offer you pennies on the dollar for what it is,” she explained.

On top of that, her young son has become terrified.

"The crisis counselors are calling me from school and saying he's constantly worried the house is going to blow up and that his dad is going to be home,” Van Meter said.

Not making matters easier, is a letter her family got from the city, written the day after the explosion. It stated that their home is "ordered to be made safe and sanitary by repairs within 30 days of the date of this letter.”

"If you're from the city of O'Fallon, you should be outraged,” Ken Stout said.

He lives down the road. At first he says he was told his home was safe. Something told him to hire his own independent engineer.
Here's what that engineer said.

"'Your house structure is not sound’….He says 'I can’t fix those cracks. Those are too big,'" Stout said.

His neighbors gathered Friday night. They're now organizing to reach out to lawmakers.

"We've got to say ‘you're in that seat. You have a responsibility for the people in this community who are unable to protect themselves right now. That's your job,” Attorney Scott Baucum told the crowd.

They want laws that toughen requirements for workers who dig, automatic assessments for structural damage independent of the city inspector or insurance companies, and instant compensation for property damage or injuries when something like this happens.

"I think if we set the standard here, all of the counties around us, hopefully all of the states around us, will actually follow our lead and protect all of us,” said State Representative Nick Schroer.

"Some neighbor somewhere is going to be the next news story,” Baucum added.

Some of those impacted say it feels like they have PTSD and are in constant fear of a disaster happening. Right now, there's a moratorium on digging in that area. The Missouri Public Service Commission and OSHA have said they're investigating the matter.