SILVER SPRING, Md. (WJZ) — Authorities don’t believe they’ve found the last of the victims at the scene of an apartment explosion in Silver Spring that claimed at least three lives and injured dozens of others.
More than 110 people have been accounted for, but investigators expect to the death toll to rise after the blast rocked apartment buildings on Arliss Street late Wednesday night, Montgomery County Assistant Police Chief Russ Hamill said.
“Our investigation leads us to the conclusion that a number of people are still within the remains of the buildings on Arliss Street,” said Hamill.
Access to the scene has been limited because the building was badly damaged by the explosion, leaving it teetering on the verge of collapse, interim fire chief David Steckel acknowledged.
“The building still presents as a collapse hazard, which is a dangerous situation for the personnel,” Steckel said. “The movement of debris itself presents a challenge. Every time you move something, it has the possibility to impinge the integrity of the structure, so we have to be careful and methodical.”
Two victims’ bodies were found on Thursday and a third was found on Friday afternoon. The victims will be taken to the Medical Examiner’s Office in Baltimore for identification.
Among the missing are two young children, ages 3 and 9, a man who identified himself as a friend of the 9-year-old’s father told WJZ.
Multiple agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are working to find out what caused the explosion. Residents and neighbors, meanwhile, were still reeling from the incident nearly 72 hours later.
Tenant Marisa Campos said it was “really loud” and sounded like “a hurricane or earthquake or something.”
A boy whose family lived at the complex recalled waking up with a start in the midst of the blast. “I was sleeping and then I heard a boom. My mom said, ‘Wake up because there’s a fire,’ the whole apartment shook, there was fire — big flames.”
Audio tapes of 911 calls made Wednesday night paint a harrowing picture.
“The whole building is on fire, the whole, whole building in front of me,” one caller told dispatchers.
Said another caller, “The whole apartment is on fire. From top to bottom, it blew up. Everything collapsed.”
While the cause of the explosion remains under investigation, tenants had made complaints about the smell of gas in recent weeks, including on July 25. Still, others have questioned whether building maintenance may have played a role.
“I think we aggressively inspect probably more than any jurisdiction around,” said Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett.
The deadly tragedy has left more than 100 people homeless.
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