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Authorities: Natural Gas Explosion Caused Silver Spring Blast, Fire

SILVER SPRING, Md. (WJZ) -- Investigators in Montgomery County say the cause of the deadly explosion and fire at the Flower Branch Apartments in Silver Spring was a natural gas leak.

What's more, they have been able to identify three of the seven victims pulled from the rubble.

"We are prepared to say that this tragedy was the result of a natural gas explosion," said Daniel Board, the Baltimore Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Seven people were killed and dozens more were injured in the explosion and fire that followed.

"There is no indication that a criminal act occurred," Board said.

Friday at a press conference, police also identified three of the seven victims with DNA.

Augusto Jimenez Sr., 62, Maria Auxiliadorai Castellon-Martinez, 53, and Saul Paniagua, 65, are confirmed dead, authorities said.

The ATF also noted the investigation is far from over.

Though investigators have figured out the source of the explosion, they are still working to determine what caused it in the first place.

The National Transportation Safety Board is now leading that part of the investigation.

"We will conduct lots of interviews and do anything and everything that we need to do to come up with a probable cause," said Ravi Chhatre, NTSB investigator.

Officials say they hope to have more answers in less than a year -- too long for those seeking legal action.

"I just believe this could have been avoided," said Adrian Boyce.

Like many, Boyce says there were numerous concerns over gas leaks long before the explosion occurred.

"Who's going to assign responsibility? Well, that's why we have a system of justice."

Rodrigo Mendez, who only speaks Spanish and represents a large portion of the community, says closure will be hard to come by.

"A lot of pain right now? Sure. Because, yes, we're all human beings and nobody wants to be in a situation the families are in that lost loved ones," said Mendez.

Fire officials did note that they stopped by the complex in July over reports of another possible gas leak, but say nothing was found.

Investigators say they have no exact timeline on when they will be able to identify the remaining victims.

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