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Miracle baby waits for justice

HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss. --  Ten years after a fiery gas explosion blows up a family's home, they are still waiting for someone to take responsibility.

A grandfather died and the explosion injured 3 others, including a 9-month- old baby girl who survived underneath piles of debris for 15 hours.

A decade later, there's a special bond between Michael Elliott and his little cousin, Olandrea Shanelle. They survived tragedy together at their grandparents home in 2008 when the family house exploded.

"I just grabbed the baby," said Michael Elliott, explosion victim.

He added, "Right there. We were running out the house the front door and boom the whole house just, I thought the world blew up really. I thought God said it was over with for everybody."

Firefighters described one miracle after the other. They found Michael and his grandmother underneath the home's collapsed roof. She had broken bones and burns. Michael's injuries were more severe. Both survived but the blast killed his grandfather, Joe. They thought they lost little Olandrea, too.

Olandrea said, "The only thing I remember is I was in the ditch for 15 hours."

Just 9-months-old at the time of the explosion, Olandrea doesn't actually remember what happened but the evidence is in the scars on her body.

Showing us her scars, she said, "Sometimes when I look in the mirror and I see my skin sometimes I ask my Mom what happened."

Firefighters looked all night for Olandrea.

"They say it was thundering and lightning all night long and she still was in that debris somewhere," said Alma Elliott, her grandmother and fire victim.

The family held onto hope they'd find her alive.

Her grandmother said, "I know she was cold and wet but the Lord kept her though. He did."

After 15 hours of searching, a firefighter heard a baby's cry coming from deep beneath the layers of rubble.

"Just like everybody is calling her a miracle baby. That`s exactly what it was. It was a miracle that child got out," said her grandmother.

She got out but the road to healing continues almost a decade later, especially for her uncle. He was in a coma for weeks at a Georgia burn center. Skin grafts help hide his physical scars but the psychological wounds are still fresh.

"PTSD, I didn't know what none of that even meant back then. I was just, now it just hit hard like every day. It's kind of hard to move on just waiting on lawyers or judges or politicians so I can move on with my life," he said.

The family said it's difficult to move on because no one takes responsibility for what happened. Reggie Elliott leads the charge on behalf of his deceased father.

"It's frustrating that an accident can occur and people don't step up and do what they need to do where family can go on with their lives," said he said.

The local fire department never determined the cause of the fire but did not indicate the family did anything wrong in its report. It's a question about the source of the blast. The family said gas seeped inside the house and caused the explosion.

Elliot said, "My parents' home was right here. It was a two story home. It had a basement and a gas tank, the propane tank was hooked to the house. On this side over here and the city has a gas main that runs right in front of us."

That gas main owned by the city of Holly Springs carried natural gas. The family said the wrapped pipes in this photo indicate leaks. However, the Mississippi State Supreme Court released the city and nine other natural gas suppliers from the lawsuit saying it`s unlikely natural gas caused the explosion. That leaves propane supplier Amerigas, as the lone defendant.

"My mother had an incident where she called them. I'm going to say the same day the house exploded because she was getting flares from the gas and she's pretty much saying that when they came out they checked it out but I don't think they went into the house to check any further," said Elliott.

They lost the head of the family in the accident and their home. 10 years are gone and they're still waiting for someone to accept responsibility.

Michael Elliott said, "I could have been anything. I wanted to be a crane operator. I could have been anything I wanted to be in my life but this whole thing just confused me. I'm shell shock. I can't get enough rest."

They also want vindication for Olandrea, the miracle baby.

"It's like when something bad happens to you and you live through it," said Olandrea when asked if she knows why they call her that.

The family wants compensation but said money isn't the only issue. They want definitive answers about what caused that explosion. Their decade long plight continues in two weeks when they head back to court.

Amerigas wants the judge to dismiss them from responsibility. If that happens there is no way for the Elliotts to recoup the over $2 million in medical bills or get compensation for their lingering pain and suffering.

WREG tried several times to contact Amerigas and its lawyers. We never heard back. We'll let you know what the judge decides.