Federal investigators are expected to release a preliminary report any day that could cast some light on what triggered a massive natural gas explosion that destroyed a Maryland apartment building, killing seven people and injuring dozens more.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) plans to issue its first report sometime within the next 14 business days. The report will detail the probable cause of the deadly blast at the Flower Branch apartment complex in Silver Spring, an NTSB official told the Montgomery (Maryland) County Council Tuesday.
The NTSB, an investigative agency typically associated with probes of significant surface transportation and air crashes, also investigates disasters stemming from energy pipelines, which the federal government classifies as a form of transportation.
Paul Sledzik, deputy director of the NTSB’s Office of Safety Recommendations and Communications, told the County Commissioners that investigators are currently testing pieces of fire-damaged equipment for clues, including parts of a gas regulator and a water heater.
The NTSB is also reviewing photographs of the apartment complex, the gas utility’s procedures and maintenance records, and conducting interviews for clues. The agency said that it is not determining fault or liability but looking for safety problems that might have contributed to the disaster.
The explosion injured 39 residents, many of whom suffered broken bones and lacerations after jumping out of windows to escape their building. A few sustained more serious, life-threatening injuries.
The fire that raged throughout the apartment complex for hours after the blast displaced 63 families from their apartment, many of whom remain in hotels.
The county is providing the displaced and injured residents with a number of support services, including housing case managers to ensure housing stability for the displaced families and mental health counseling, especially for children who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder due to the blast.
Source: WTOP Washington DC