SILVER SPRING, Md. - A sixth body was recovered after an explosion and fire at an apartment complex in Maryland, authorities said as firefighters continued amid sweltering heat to comb through the rubble to search for several others who remain missing.
Rescue crews found the sixth victim within the apartment building Monday. All six remains were taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for autopsies and identification.
Authorities have identified the people who are missing as: Saeda Ibrahim, age 41; Augusto Jimenez Sr., age 62; Maria Auxiliadorai Castellon-Martinez, age 53; Aseged Mekonen, age 34; Deibi "David" Samir Lainez Morales, age 8; Fernando Josue Hernandez Orellana, age 3; Saul Paniagua, age 65.
Police said they believe the first four bodies that have been found among the seven people unaccounted for.
Authorities also said on Monday that 55-year-old Oscar Armando Ochoa, another man initially believed to be one of the missing, has been located and is unharmed. Investigators learned that Ochoa had moved from his apartment and confirmed he was not at the apartment complex at the time of the fire. Police said Ochoa's lease information had not been updated to show that he had moved leading to the confusion that he was unaccounted for.
The explosion late Wednesday night shook buildings more than a mile away. An off-duty Montgomery County police officer was the one who first reported the fire and building collapse. When firefighters arrived, civilians on the scene had already begun using ladders to try and rescue people who were trapped on the upper floors of apartment units. The magnitude of the explosion propelled clothing and shoes into the street and nearby trees.
The cause of the blast is still being determined, with police, fire and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives taking part in the investigation.
People who lived in the building said they have smelled gas in the past. Most of the people who live here speak only Spanish and some felt their concerns and complaints to management have been ignored. One man told FOX 5 he has neighbors who have told him they have complained about smelling gas at times in the days and weeks prior to the explosion.
On Monday evening, Washington Gas workers were seen conducting gas line testing at a nearby building after there was concern it was located next to the explosion site, but the utility said everything is safe.
Donations have been pouring in to help the residents who have been displaced from the apartment complex located on Piney Branch Road. There has been such an outpouring of support that CASA de Maryland said last week they are no longer taking in donated items. However, they will still continue to accept money and gift cards donations. Other organizations are still accepting donations of all kinds.
Click here for more information on how you can help.
Authorities are urging anyone with information on the whereabouts of those missing to contact law enforcement.