Seventh Body Found at Site of Massive Apartment Explosion in Silver Spring

A seventh body was found Tuesday at the site of a massive explosion and fire at a Silver Spring, Maryland, apartment complex last week.

The news of the seventh body was released Tuesday evening.

Six other bodies have been recovered. The victims have yet to be positively identified, but authorities believe the victims are Saeda Ibrahim, 41; Augusto Jimenez Sr., age 62; Maria Auxiliadorai Castellon-Martinez, age 53; Aseged Mekonen, age 34; Deibi “David” Samir Lainez Morales, age 8; Fernando Josue Hernandez Orellana, age 3; and Saul Paniagua, age 65. 

Meanwhile, almost a week after the blast, residents who have been allowed to return say they are living in fear. 

"They were sleeping in the car for a while," said one resident in Spanish. "Now they've returned to the apartments, but they're afraid to turn the gas stove on. They're afraid to cook." 

A massive explosion tore through a building at the Flower Branch Apartments in the 8700 block of Arliss Street at about 11:50 p.m. August 10.

Another 31 people were injured, and scores of families were displaced or traumatized. Some of the families are asking for psychological help.

"One hundred percent of the families don't sleep, because everybody is scared," said a resident of a nearby building.

The cause of the blast has not been determined, but some residents have said they smelled gas before the explosion.

At a meeting with officials Tuesday in the community center, residents received reassurances that Washington Gas has checked out the surrounding buildings. 

"The residents of the adjacent buildings should not experience a problem with their gas. If they do, they should certainly contact us," said Earl Stoddard of Montgomery County Emergency Services.

But the fear remains.

"We can't do regular things," said Christy Canjura, a young resident. "We simply can't go through our day without ever thinking of that traumatic experience that we all had that night."

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin told the community that he and other officials understand the trauma, and are working on getting the help that's needed.

"You look at this and this is about as bad as you can find of a tragedy. I just cannot imagine what went through the thoughts of people who were trapped in these buildings," Cardin said, after touring the scene.

"There are certainly mental issues that are gonna have to be need to be dealt with. There is going to be fear," Cardin said. "One of the services we are looking at providing is how we can meet those needs."

And the families will get other help, too. Two of the elementary schools that serve the area are already having discussions about how they will support young students headed back to school.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said the community was immediately concerned about housing. "The challenge that we heard today is most immediately that of trying to find provisional housing and permanent housing for people," he said. "And we'll be able to do so."

Cardin emphasized that people should feel comfortable asking for help no matter what their immigration status. The apartments are in an area where many immigrants live, some documented, some not.

"There's a concern in immigrant communities about whether they can trust governmental services. I wanted them to know that ... this is all about providing help," Cardin said.

Meanwhile, fire investigtors say they are getting closer to announcing the cause of the blast. They said they hoped to have something finalized by the end of this week.

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