NEW YORK – Seven of the eight people killed in a suspected gas explosion that leveled two apartment buildings died of either blunt trauma or smoke inhalation and burns, officials said Monday.
The autopsy results were released as investigators continued to examine the circumstances of the Wednesday blast that left eight people dead and more than 60 injured. All seven deaths were ruled accidental. There were no autopsy results for the eighth victim, who had not yet been identified.
Five victims — Griselde Camacho, Carmen Tanco, Andreas Panagopoulos, George Amadeo and Rosaura Barrios — died from combinations of blunt trauma injuries to the head, torso and extremities, said medical examiner spokeswoman Julie Bolcer. Two others, Rosaura Hernandez and Jordy Salas, died from smoke inhalation and burns.
The blast erupted about 15 minutes after someone from a neighboring building reported smelling gas, authorities said. The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates pipeline accidents, said Friday that underground tests conducted in the hours after the explosion registered high concentrations of natural gas.
On Monday, emergency workers continued to sift through debris at the East Harlem site in search of clues that might reveal what caused the blast. The investigation is focused on basement meters and pipes, and on possible ignition sources, such as light switches, officials said.
The NTSB had been expected to begin pressure-testing pipes Sunday. An NTSB spokesman declined on Monday to say whether there has been any progress.
Camacho was a Hunter College security officer; Tanco, 67, a dental hygienist who participated in church-sponsored medical missions to Africa and the Caribbean; Panagopoulos, 43, a musician from Greece; Hernandez, 22, a restaurant cook from Mexico; Barrios, 43, the mother of Hernandez; Amadeo, 44, a handyman; and Salas, 22, a restaurant worker.
A fundraising drive has been launched to help those affected by the explosion. The money will support a relief plan that includes a victims' assistance fund to go toward funeral arrangements, rent and household expenses. The plan also includes counseling and outreach to immigrant communities.