More than two years after a natural gas explosion destroyed a Maryland apartment building, killing seven people and injuring dozens more, residents are still waiting for the results of a federal investigation.
Residents of the Flower Branch Apartment complex in Silver Spring, Maryland, complained repeatedly about the smell of natural gas on the premises before one of the buildings exploded just before midnight on Aug. 10, 2016.
The natural gas explosion leveled much of the building, killing Saeda Ibrahim, 41; Augusto Jimenez Sr., 62; Maria Auxiliadorai Castellon-Martinez, 53; Aseged Mekonen, 34; Deibi “David” Samir Lainez Morales, 8; Fernando Josue Hernandez Orellana, 3; and Saul Paniagua, 65.
Dozens more were injured, including many who jumped to escape the fire, and suffered from burns and broken bones. The deadly blast has left many families in the predominantly Latino, working-class community unable to work and burdened with medical costs.
Even after the deadly natural gas explosion, residents continue to smell and report strong gas fumes.
Financial relief for those affected remains out of reach as the federal investigation drags on far past the time it usually takes the National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB) to determine the cause of a major natural gas explosion. The NTSB investigates such incidents because pipelines are considered a form of transportation.
“No determination as to a cause has been issued at this point,” NTSB spokesperson Keith Holloway said Thursday in an email to ThinkProgress. “It is possible that a final report will be available sometime in the mid to late fall of this year.”
Litigation can’t fully move ahead until the NTSB makes its final determination about the cause of the explosion.
CASA, a nonprofit advocacy group that helps low-income workers and immigrant communities, is assisting residents of the Flower Branch apartment complex, many of whom are afraid to speak out and confused about their legal options, according to ThinkProgress.
Lawyers for the victims of the natural gas explosion have filed lawsuits against Washington Gas Light Co. and Kay Management, the owner-operator of the property. Those complaints, which allege the defendant companies ignored tenants’ concerns about the natural gas odor, are pending in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
The NTSB typically takes about one year to complete its investigations, and almost always makes its final determinations with a year a half.
The NTSB wrapped up its investigation of a 2014 natural gas explosion in Harlem that killed eight people and injured more than 50 others in less than 15 months.
The agency’s investigation of the natural gas explosion that decimated part of San Bruno, California, which also killed eight people and injured more than 50, was finished in fewer than 13 months.