Chesapeake strangers connected by tragedy reunite after deadly home explosion


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – It’s been more than a month since a blast rattled a quiet Chesapeake neighborhood. 

The explosion on Lofurno Drive left one person dead.

On Thursday evening, it was a reunion of sorts as a member of the victim’s family got to meet one of the men who ran inside the home to help. 

The explosion happened October 14 in the Deep Creek area of Chesapeake.
The nephew of the victim says he wanted to make sure those who helped knew his family was grateful.

It was a bittersweet meeting between two strangers brought together by tragedy.

“You saved my aunt from being burned alive and I thank you for that,” James Mims said.

Mims was at the home with his aunt and uncle, Don and Faye Berry when a gas explosion tore through the house.

“It was just a loud boom that went off and rattled the entire house,” 20-year-old Andrew Fontenot said.

Fontenot lives next door.  A member of the Coast Guard, he had just moved in two weeks earlier. He immediately ran toward the fire to help.

“I just punched that window and tried to pull that wall off as hard as I could and that’s how I ended up breaking my hand,” Fontenot said. “Once we got in, I just seen her sitting there, we uncovered her and carried her out.”

The couple was taken to the hospital but Faye died from her injuries. Mims wasn’t seriously injured.

Although the weeks after the explosion have been tough, Mims said he’s found peace knowing someone put their life at risk to try to save his loved ones.

“You helped my aunt out, you went running in there. You’re in the coast guard, you’ve done your duty. Thank you, thank you,” Mims said to Fontenot. 

Fontenot said his instinct just kicked in and he’d do it again without a second thought.

“If something like that happened to us, I hope everyone would come help us,” he said.

Mims said his uncle is still recovering and will be for some time. As for Fontenot, he said his hand is almost healed and he’s set to get his cast off next week.

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