United States

Resident who died by suicide blamed in Maryland apartment blast, fire that injured 14, police say

An apartment unit resident likely caused an explosion and fire that injured 14 people and brought down part of a Maryland apartment building as he took his own life, authorities said Friday.

A 36-year-old man was identified by the Montgomery County Police Department on Friday as the person “responsible for the explosion,” it said.

His manner of death was suicide, police Chief Marcus G. Jones said at a news conference Friday.

“He made statements that were indicative of intentions of suicide,” Jones said, basing the finding on witnesses who knew the resident.

The injuries, partial collapse and other fire-related damage Wednesday at the Potomac Oaks Condominium complex in Gaithersburg, about 20 miles north of Washington, D.C., were likely unintentional, police said.

Jones said there was no information that led them to believe the man “intended for other individuals to be injured or harmed in this particular incident.”

The man’s body was found amid rubble Wednesday after investigators focused on his unit. During a news conference Thursday, County Fire Chief Scott E. Goldstein called his unit “our apartment of focus,” but he did not say why.

Likewise, officials did not explain how a suicide may have led to an explosion and fire. Fourteen people were injured, treated at hospitals, and released, authorities said.

The man had been reported missing after Wednesday morning’s fire, but those who reported him missing didn’t know he was the “owner this apartment, this condominium, at this location,” Jones said.

The man took ownership in August, the chief said, and the reason those who knew him had no idea about the purchase was part of the ongoing investigation into the explosion.

Had he survived, the resident would likely be the focus of a criminal investigation given the injuries and property damage caused by the explosion and fire, Jones said.

The explosion was reported about 8:40 a.m. Wednesday, fire officials said. Residents were reported to have sought safety on balconies, Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Assistant Chief Daniel Ogren said.

Video obtained by NBC affiliate WBAL of Baltimore showed raging flames bursting from the colonial-style, brick-facade building. Shouts of “get out” were heard as the fire raged.

County Executive Marc Elrich said all the residents of 24 units were displaced by the explosion and fire. WBAL reported 47 people have registered with the county as displaced.

Associated Press contributed.

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