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Tragic Gas Explosion Leads to the Collapse of Two Harlem Buildings

7 Reported Dead, 60 Injured and Many Missing

A deadly explosion has rocked the East Harlem section of Manhattan, causing two buildings to collapse.

At approximately 9:15 a.m., a call came into Con Edison from a resident of an adjoining building complaining of an odor of gas. Con Edison dispatched crews minutes later, however the crews had not yet arrived at the building at the time of the explosion, which happened 18 minutes later at 9:31 a.m. The blast, which was heard and felt up to 10 blocks away, has resulted in devastating and heartbreaking losses. Thus far, 7 people have been confirmed dead, up to 60 people have been injured and 9 people are still reported to be missing. Heroic emergency first responders rushed to the scene and assisted the injured, who were taken to various local hospitals for treatment. Several of those injured remain hospitalized in critical condition. Some of the injured include children as young as 3 months old. So far, those killed in the explosion have been identified as Griselde Camacho, a public safety officer at CUNY and Carmen Taco, a 67 year old dental technician.

Since the explosion, brave members of the FDNY and NYPD have tirelessly conducted search and rescue operations in the hopes of finding persons trapped in the rubble. Biting cold and fierce winds have made the search extremely difficult.

At the present time, the main focus is providing support, comfort and prayers for those who have been affected by this tragedy. However, in the days, weeks and months ahead, attention will turn to determining the cause of the blast. While the cause of the explosion has not yet been determined, all indications point to a gas leak. Several agencies are involved in the investigation, including the National Transportation Safety Board, New York City Department of Buildings, Con Edison and New York City Fire Department.

This was not the first time that the location had experienced issues with respect to gas odors and gas leaks. In May 2013 Con Edison received a report of a gas leak at one of the buildings and the gas was turned off so repairs could be made. The building owner hired a private contractor to repair the gas leak. Reports are that the private contractor installed up to 150 feet of gas piping, which was inspected by Con Edison on July 3rd to ensure the pipe was properly installed.

Con Edison stated that they performed routine inspections for the detection of gas leaks on the block, called "high speed checks, on both February 10th and 28th and that no gas leaks were detected at that time. However, several residents on the block have stated that they smelled an odor of gas in the days leading up to the explosion and had called in complaints to both Con Edison and the FDNY. In addition, several residents of one of the apartments buildings that was destroyed claims to have made complaints of the odor of gas to both the building owner and the FDNY one day prior to the blast. Others have complained that the odor of gas has permeated the area for months prior to the explosion.

The investigation will certainly include an examination of all of these factors. Whether it was a failure by the building owner, Con Edison or the City of New York to respond to complaints of gas, or whether there was a failure to properly repair or install gas pipes, it will be essential for investigators to determine the cause of the explosion in order to prevent such a senseless tragedy from happening again in the future. We will be following the investigation as it unfolds.

The attorneys at Block O'Toole & Murphy express their heartfelt condolences to those who have been killed and injured in this tragedy, as well as to the families of those who have been affected. You can learn more about the lawyers at Block O'Toole & Murphy, as well as their more than $700,000,000 in verdicts and settlements, by reviewing their firm website at www.blockotoole.com.