A building maintenance worker accidentally cut a gas line at the Silver Spring, Maryland, apartment complex that exploded and burned on Thursday, officials said in an update Monday.
Investigators believe that accident led to the blast but say they do not expect to be able to identify “the exact source of ignition,” Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein said at a news conference Monday afternoon.
The maintenance worker was trying to fix a clogged drain in a first-floor apartment at the Friendly Garden Apartments on Thursday morning, Goldstein said. He went to the basement and cut what he believed to be a drain waste pipe. He put a cap on the pipe, went back upstairs to the apartment and a flash fire occurred.
The worker and apartment resident began to exit the building through the back stairwell when the building exploded, Goldstein said. Sources previously gave News4 a similar account of what happened.
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The gas line was unlabeled, County Executive Marc Elrich said.
“It was indistinguishable from the other pipes in there,” he said.
The total number of people injured stands at 14 as of Monday afternoon. Twelve victims were discharged from hospitals; one was still in critical condition and the other has a medical condition unrelated to the explosion, Goldstein said.
Dogs trained to search for human remains worked on the blast site over the weekend. K-9s gave possible indications of alerts on Thursday and Friday. But investigators now believe those were false alarms.
“We believe that we located a glove in the rubble debris field that was the source of that K-9 alert,” Goldstein said.
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Elrich was asked at the news conference if building management could be held responsible for the blast.
“They need to accept some responsibility for this,” he said.
Elrich said he would look at possible legislation requiring gas pipes to be labeled, as well as regarding training requirements for building workers.