Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
An excavator removes debris from the site of a building explosion, Thursday, March 13, 2014 in New York. Rescuers working amid gusty winds, cold temperatures and billowing smoke pulled four additional bodies Thursday from the rubble of two New York City apartment buildings, raising the death toll to at least seven from a gas leak-triggered explosion that reduced the area to a pile of smashed bricks, splinters and mangled metal. The explosion Wednesday morning in Manhattan's East Harlem injured more than 60 people. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Death toll in NYC gas explosion climbs to 8
First Published Mar 13 2014 04:05 pm • Last Updated Mar 13 2014 08:54 pm

NEW YORK • Rescue workers using dogs and thermal-detection gear to search rubble for more victims of a gas explosion found an eighth body on Thursday while investigators tried to pinpoint the leak and determine whether it had anything to do with the city’s aging gas and water mains, some from the 1800s.

At least five people were unaccounted for after the deafening blast Wednesday morning destroyed two five-story East Harlem apartment buildings that were served by an 1887 cast-iron gas main. More than 60 people were injured.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Fire and utility officials said that if the buildings were plagued in recent days or weeks by strong gas odors, as some tenants claimed, they have no evidence anyone reported it before Wednesday.

National Transportation Safety Board team member Robert Sumwalt said the gas main and distribution pipe under the street had been examined in a crater and were found to be intact, with no obvious punctures or ruptures. They had not been torn from the ground, he said.

However, he said NTSB investigators had been unable to conduct a fuller examination because of the rescue effort underway, and it was unclear whether the leak came from inside or outside the buildings.

He said there had also been a water main break at the site, but it was unknown if that contributed to the gas explosion or was caused by it. The water main was installed in 1897, according to the city.

Authorities also hoped to reach the basement — still under rubble — to examine heating units, meters and other equipment that might hold clues to the blast, fire department Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said: "We can only get conclusive evidence when the fire is out, when the rescue is completed, and we really get a chance to look at all the facts."

Aging infrastructure — crumbling bridges, highways, water mains and gas lines — has become a major concern in recent years, especially in older cities in the Northeast, and has been blamed for explosions, floods and other accidents.

"We know this is a fundamental challenge for New York City and any older city," de Blasio said. But he said the federal government needs to provide more aid to cities to deal with the problem.


story continues below
story continues below

As cold, stiff winds blew across the still-smoldering debris, construction equipment with iron jaws picked up the rubble, first depositing it on the pavement, then hoisting it onto trucks that hauled it away. Clouds of thick smoke swirled over Park Avenue.

Officials said workers were about 40 percent to 50 percent through the rubble, using sound devices and putting telescopic video cameras into small voids to see if there is someone in there.

The mayor told firefighters carrying grappling hooks and other equipment: "I can only imagine, knowing that at any moment you might find a body, how difficult that is."

Police identified four of the dead: Griselde Camacho, 45, a Hunter College security officer; Carmen Tanco, 67, a dental hygienist who took part in church-sponsored medical missions to Africa and the Caribbean; Andreas Panagopoulos, a musician; and Rosaura Hernandez, 22, a restaurant cook from Mexico.

Mexican officials said a Mexican woman, Rosaura Barrios Vazquez, 43, was among those killed.

The bodies of two unidentified men were also pulled from the rubble.

At least three of the injured were children. One, a 15-year-old boy, was reported in critical condition with burns, broken bones and internal injuries.

The blast erupted about 15 minutes after someone from a neighboring building reported smelling gas, authorities said. The Con Edison utility said it immediately sent workers to check out the report, but they got there too late.

Con Ed CEO John McAvoy said the call had been correctly categorized as low priority. "A single person calling that they smelled gas outside of a building is not something that would warrant a fire department response," he said.

After the disaster, a number of neighborhood residents said they smelled gas on Tuesday but didn’t report it. A tenant in one of the destroyed buildings, Ruben Borrero, said that residents had complained to the landlord about the gas odors on Tuesday and that fire officials were also called a few weeks ago.

But Cassano and McAvoy said that before Wednesday, the fire department and Con Ed had received no complaints in the last 30 days about a gas leak in the area.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.