The Real Deal New York

Death toll reaches eight in East Harlem explosion

National Transportation Safety Board to investigate whether gas leak triggered deadly blast

March 14, 2014 02:10PM

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Firefighters go through debris and rubble at the site of the East Harlem building collapse at 1644-1646 Park Avenue (Credit: @khalidkhan787 via Twitter)

Firefighters go through debris and rubble at the site of the East Harlem building collapse at 1644-1646 Park Avenue (Credit: @khalidkhan787 via Twitter)

An eighth body was found in the wreckage of two buildings destroyed in an explosion in East Harlem Wednesday morning. The victim has yet to be identified. The Fire Department and other crews have searched through about half the debris from the buildings that collapsed, 1644 Park Avenue and 1646 Park Avenue. Three people who lived in the building are still unaccounted for, according to published reports.

At least 54 people were also injured in the explosion. Some remain in critical condition.

Once the site is determined to be safe, the National Transportation Safety Board plans to investigate. The NTSB is operating under “the assumption” that a natural gas leak triggered the blast, officials told Capital New York. The NTSB’s Robert Sumwalt told the New York Times the main gas pipe to the buildings is still intact, unlike other pipeline accidents in which the pipe was “thrown out of a crater.”

Residents of the neighborhood reportedly said they smelled gas the night before disaster struck.

Furthermore, gas supplier Con Edison received a call about a gas leak on the street just prior to the explosion.

According to the New York Daily News, ConEd had inspected the main gas line in the area twice: once in 2004 due to a leak, and once to replace 69 feet of the pipe when a customer had a new water line installed. But a ConEd van that randomly checks neighborhoods for gas leaks took a reading in the area on Feb. 28, and found no problems, the paper reported.

Two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents witnessed the explosion, telling officials that they were nearby when 1644 Park Avenue — which housed the Spanish Christian Church — collapsed pancake-style, according to the the Times. [Gothamist] and [NY Daily News] and [CapitalNewYork] and [NYT]Angela Hunt

  • MarcoZ

    it was the MH370 that flew into the building: speculator

    • yikes

      while in poor taste….that is an awkwardly funny comment……

  • Outer Borough Wok

    It’s a good thing that a national agency is investigating so no one can cry foul when it is discovered that the City and Con ed are not responsible if the leak is not from a public main which would indicate that it is from one of the buildings. The flames were in the piano store and local resident Christopher Grande gave his eyewitness account of the cake top blowing off i.e. the roof to NBC News. It doesn’t sound like the owners were on top of repairs if they didn’t correct or investigate potential structural problems in the past.

    It’s possible that there is an uncommon sensitivity towards the possible vulnerabilities of some types of people who may blame themselves for the blast so the press ran a few pieces saying that it might be because the city’s infrastructure is too old (this is the first time this has been blamed on the city) because coincidentally an article came out the day before about how 50billion repair bill for old pipes. That red herring could have a prevented a suicide – not to racial stereotype or anything.

    I have a water main break near my home and gas lines so maybe I am wrong and my block will explode but I highly doubt it. They found the public gas main intact so that is definitely going to be analyzed by multiple experts and insurance teams.

    I think the government did a great job responding to this including the fact that NTSB is doing the investigation and speaking to the press.

    Everyone has just been exemplary from the locals who immediately ran toward the blast to rescue people with their bare hands to the landlord who donated housing. The people in the neighborhood also looked really nice from their appearances in front of the camera. I though East Harlem was some decrepit impoverished neighborhood but now I would want to live there because the locals seem really cool.

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