202

Silver Spring victims plan to sue over apartment blast

Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA, speaks at the announcement that CASA will partner with two area law firms to get compensation and justice for the victims of the Silver Spring apartment fire and explosion. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)

WASHINGTON — Victims of a fire caused by a natural gas explosion last month at a Silver Spring, Maryland, apartment complex plan to sue to seek compensation and legislative changes.

The group CASA, which advocates for low-income women, workers and tenants, made the announcement in a news conference near the site of the Aug. 10 fire at the Flower Branch Apartments on Piney Branch Road.

“We are calling for just compensation,” said CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres. “We are thinking about how we are going to make sure that we bring justice to our families.”

CASA also has partnered with two law firms on the legal action. The law firms — Bailey & Glasser, and Gupta Wessler — will conduct their own investigations to hold all parties responsible for the tragedy. A civil suit is expected to be filed in the next few weeks.

“We intend to hold accountable any and all parties who are responsible,” said Bailey & Glasser attorney Cary Joshi. “We will also support the efforts of the community to bring about lasting, systemic changes that will ensure that what happened in Flower Branch never happens again.”

More than 50 victims are on board with the suit so far, Joshi said.

Seven people died as a result of the blast, including two children. More than 30 people were treated at hospitals and more than 80 families were displaced.

George Escobar, director of services with CASA, said residents have had to deal with a number of quality of life issues, including poor building conditions and harassment from managers and security officers at the apartment complex. More than 100 tenants signed petitions, calling for a meeting with their property management company Kay Apartment Communities to discuss their concerns.

Authorities say the fire was the result of a gas explosion in a meter room in the basement of one of the buildings. The investigation into what ignited the gas is ongoing.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

© 2016 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.