Jill Kolodner | August 11, 2020 | News
Three row houses in a Northwest Baltimore neighborhood were leveled Monday morning by an explosion. There is nothing but rubble and sadness where the three homes stood at Labyrinth Road and Reisterstown Road. The blast occurred at about 10:00 a.m.
The explosion bent utility poles and shattered windows in surrounding homes for as far as two blocks from the blast. One resident, William Ewell, said that he thought they were under attack when the explosion occurred.
In the moments after the explosion, neighbors ran out of their homes to assess the situation. They began to dig through the rubble to try to locate survivors. Albert Senwah, 21, began throwing debris to the side.
Mr. Senwah continued to help search through the rubble with first responders for another 45 minutes after they arrived. He saw at least two people pulled from the rubble with severe injuries. He said he could hear a child crying.
One person appeared to have a broken ankle and severe burns on his body. Another woman had cuts along her legs.
Emergency Responders Continue to Search for Survivors
Emergency responders worked throughout the day on Monday searching for victims. Baltimore City Fire Department posted on its Facebook page a picture of the mound of rubble. Crews worked to carefully clear the debris from the explosion, including broken glass, bricks, splintered wood, and cinder blocks.
On Monday, officials reported that one woman died from the explosion. At least seven people went to the hospital with various injuries. The BCFD said it was continuing the search for survivors by hand, but did not know if there were other victims under the rubble.
By Tuesday, an additional person was reported dead because of the explosion. At a 9:00 a.m. news conference on Tuesday morning, the Baltimore Fire Department confirmed that a man had been pulled from the debris around 1:00 a.m. Tuesday.
Government Officials Respond to the Devastation
City Council member Isaac Schleifer arrived at the site within minutes. He had been at his home nearby with his daughters.
Councilman Schleifer said that it was a horrific tragedy. He spent hours knocking on doors of homes near the explosion to let occupants know that the city would make sure they had a place to sleep that night. He said that the COVID-19 pandemic complicates the matter, but that they were working with the Red Cross to get help for the victims of the blast.
Governor Larry Hogan tweeted about the explosion in northwest Baltimore. Gov. Hogan said they were monitoring the situation and had reached out to offer full support for the response and recovery efforts.
Baltimore Mayor Bernard Young offered prayers on Monday as he stood with eyewitnesses and responders at the site of the explosion.
In all, about 30 people left to seek temporary shelter. The natural gas explosion impacted more than 200 people in the Reisterstown Station neighborhood.
What was the Cause of the Explosion in Reisterstown Station?
Authorities had said that they were looking into whether the explosion could be related to a problem with the natural gas in the area. When Leon Phillips was leaving his home on Labyrinth Road about 6:00 that morning to go to work, he thought he smelled natural gas in the vents.
A friend of Mr. Phillips was still asleep in the house when Mr. Phillips left for work. When he arrived back at the scene, he discovered the explosion had destroyed his house. He finally learned that his friend was in the ICU at a hospital.
A spokeswoman for Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) stated the cause of the explosion was not known. Later in the day, the gas service was shut down to the surrounding streets as the investigation into the cause of the explosion continued.
In a statement, BGE asked for patience as it investigated the cause of the explosion. The utility company claims that it had not received any calls recently regarding gas odors from the homes damaged in the explosion. Also, no gas odors had been reported to the company immediately before the explosion.
The utility company also said that it did not find any leaks when the gas mains and services in the area were last inspected in June and July of 2019.
However, the Baltimore Sun reported last year that gas leaks happen more frequently. On average, nearly two dozen gas leaks occur each day, according to reports to federal authorities. Thousands of miles of old pipes likely need to be replaced, as BGE is the nation’s oldest gas utility dating back to 1817.
Victims Can Seek Legal Counsel for Assistance With Claims
The investigation into the cause of the explosion continues. It could be some time before officials conclude what caused the explosion that took two lives and injured many others. In addition to the potential wrongful death claims and personal injury claims, there could be dozens of property damage claims by nearby property owners.
If BGE or another party is responsible for the cause of the explosion, the negligent parties may be held liable for damages. It is never too early to meet with an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss one or more causes of action to recover compensation for injuries, wrongful death, losses, and other damages.