CASA, law firm, file lawsuits on behalf of victims of Silver Spring apartment explosion

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An immigrant advocacy group and a major law firm held a press conference Wednesday to announce that they have filed lawsuits on behalf of families impacted by a deadly Silver Spring apartment complex fire that left seven dead over the summer.

Victims of the explosion joined CASA representatives and members of the law firm, Bailey & Glasser, as they spoke to media about the personal injury and class action suits filed against Washington Gas and the Kay Management Company. The lawsuits were filed Wednesday in D.C. Superior Court, nearly three months after the deadly blaze struck the Flower Branch Apartments.

The fire happened on August 10 just after midnight at the complex on Piney Branch Road. Two of the seven dead were children and over 80 families were displaced. Many residents have reported experiencing PTSD symptoms following the incident.

FOX 5 spoke with 17-year-old Bitseat Getaneh, a victim of the explosion. She said, "I was sleeping and when I woke up and the whole room was on fire. I was running and running. It was so hard."

Getaneh had just moved to the United States from Ethiopia before the gas-fueled explosion happened. She spent three weeks at Children's Hospital recovering from her devastating burns.

Gustavo Torres, of CASA, says their group has requested meetings with both the utility and management company but, so far, no meetings have materialized. Torres said the majority of families impacted by the explosion have relocated to Kay Management properties nearby the complex.

However, Kay Management responded to this claim in a statement that said in part: "We met with residents of the two affected buildings within days of the natural gas explosion on August 16th to answer questions and to provide details on the company provided assistance packages. We are continuing to work with CASA's attorneys to coordinate a second meeting under mutually agreed-upon terms with any resident."

In the weeks following the fire, authorities said the explosion was caused by natural gas and started in the meter room of the complex and involved natural gas.

Washington Gas said in a statement:

"First and foremost, our deepest and sincerest condolences remain with those impacted by what occurred in Silver Spring and we continue to support the community in every way we can.

"As you know, as a signed party to the NTSB's investigation of this tragedy, we are precluded from making any public statements about the details of their work or about our work with them in helping to determine what happened at the Flower Branch apartments. Similarly, we will be unable to comment on any filed or pending litigation related to it. We would note that the NTSB does have a communications team to whom you can and should reach out."

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