Vigil set for Silver Spring apt. blast victims, where pain remains 2 years on

WASHINGTON — Seven people died after a gas explosion at a Silver Spring, Maryland, apartment complex, and Friday marks the two-year anniversary of the deadly event.

Members of the community, survivors and families of the victims are expected to gather 7:30 p.m. Friday for a candlelight vigil a block from where the disaster took place. The vigil will be on a parking lot across from the apartment complex.

“It’s really important to show unity, that the families and everything that has happened two years ago hasn’t been forgotten,” said Ana Martinez, lead organizer for CASA de Maryland, which is planning the event in cooperation with the Flower Branch Tenants Association.

On Aug. 10, 2016, a natural gas explosion ripped through the Flower Branch Apartments on Piney Branch Road. The sudden blast was heard miles away, and sparked a massive fire and building collapse.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is still investigating the explosion.

“I have never seen or experienced anything like that,” resident Felicia Charlouis-Prospere told WTOP last year at the first anniversary. “Kids were crying and parents were screaming.”

Martinez said for many closely impacted by the explosion, the pain remains, including cases of post-traumatic stress for those young and old who had lived through the terrifying event.

“If they see a fire truck, or even sounds or seeing flames within the stove, it creates triggers,” Martinez said.

CASA joined a number of lawsuits filed on behalf of the residents impacted by the blast. Martinez said the cases against Washington Gas and the owner of the apartment complex, Kay Apartments, continue today.

“It’s been two years and nothing has been resolved,” Martinez said.

“We continue to cooperate and engage with the NTSB as they work through their investigative process,” Washington Gas told WTOP, adding that “the litigation cannot fully proceed until the NTSB completes its work.”

Warning signs were evident, Martinez claimed, including a smell of gas reported by residents before the explosion, but nothing was done to fix the issue.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.

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