Montgomery County Police said a sixth victim from the fire in Silver Spring has been identified, Aseged Mekonen, age 34.
Police previously identified the bodies of Maria Auxiliadorai Castellon-Martinez, 53, Augusto Jimenez Sr., 62, Saul Paniagua, 65, Deibi “David” Samir Lainez Morales, 8 and Fernando Josue Hernandez Orellana, 3.
The office of the Chief Medical Examiner is still in the process of identifying the last body recovered from the wreckage of the Flower Branch apartment building located on 8701 Arliss Street in Silver Spring. In total, seven people died as a result of the fire.
“We have worked diligently toward confirming each of the victims’ identities and determining the cause of death for each victim,” Hamill said. “The identification process has been extremely challenging for reasons related to the blast, fire and collapse of the buildings on Arliss Street.”
Investigators from the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) have taken the lead on the investigation after Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) determined there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer said a gas leak was the cause of the explosion.
According to ATF Special Agent Daniel Board, the fire was gas-fed and investigators still do not know what has triggered the explosion, which occurred in the meter room at 8701 Arliss Street.
“There is no indication of unauthorized access to the meter room prior to the explosion,” Board said. “There are multiple ignition sources that are inherent to an apartment building and further investigation is necessary.”
NTSB investigators have now finished their examination of the accident scene and are working on preparing a full report to determine the probable cause of the fire and explosion that occurred on Aug. 10.
NTSB spokesperson Eric Weiss said the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) as well as Washington Gas, the utility company that serves Flower Branch, is assisting NTSB with their investigation.
NTSB lead investigator Ravi Chhatre said it could take a year to issue a report on the cause of the explosion.
Chhartre said the NTSB does not regulate gas lines but considers them a mode of transportation, meaning that they’re responsible for investigating gas line accidents.
Chhartre said he’s investigated similar cases while at the NTSB. In 2014, Chhartre was the investigator on a gas explosion and fire at an apartment building in New York City.