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'The Houses Are Gone': 911 Calls From Baltimore Gas Explosion Released; Residents Smelled Gas Before And After Blast

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Baltimore City officials said Wednesday they have yet to determine the cause of a deadly gas explosion on Labyrinth Road that happened nine days earlier as newly-released 911 calls shed new light on the frantic scene that morning.

The 14 calls paint a chaotic picture as panicked neighbors call 911 after hearing a blast that shook their homes.

"This was an unfortunate and tragic incident in the community. We will continue to pray for those affected," said Emergency Management Chief Charles Svehla. "We all had the same goal and that was to rescue everyone who we could."

It was just before 10 a.m. when an explosion leveled three homes and severely damaged a fourth home along Labyrinth Road in northwest Baltimore near Reisterstown Road.

The blast killed 20-year-old Morgan State University sophomore Joseph Graham, Jr., and 61-year-old Lonnie Herriott. Seven other people were hospitalized.

Fire officials said Wednesday that two survivors remain in local hospitals in critical and stable conditions.

In one of the 14 calls WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren reviewed, a woman is desperate to make sure her daughter is okay.

"She was in the basement. I told her to get out of the basement," the crying woman told the operator. 

Another neighbor told 911, "Everybody's windows are blown out. It's terrible. There are people under houses."

"It went boom," one caller said when describing the blast, saying she was working at home a few blocks away when the explosion caused her home to rattle.

Another woman, who lives one block over, called 911 just after the blast and said she saw the homes down the road had been blown up.

"The houses are gone," she said. "They are gone."

The woman said she smelled gas when she went to the store and explained that the blast blew out some of her windows.


Another neighbor across the street called 911 after her windows and doors blew in from the blast.

"Three houses exploded and knocked everyone else's windows and doors off," the woman said.

She also said she smelled gas.

That woman also said she could hear people hollering from inside the rubble for help.

Many callers believed a nearby Exxon gas station was the location of the explosion when the initial calls in from nearby residents.

The 911 operator told one caller they were getting lots of calls from the area and were sending out the fire department.

Chief Svelha declined to say whether the owners of the three demolished rowhomes have been interviewed.

"At this time, because it's an ongoing investigation, we have nothing to say on that. The investigation is still open," he said.

Baltimore Gas and Electric wrote in a statement on August 13th that it was not to blame. That statement read in part:

"BGE has found that all of its equipment—gas mains, gas service pipes and gas meters, as well as electric equipment—has been operating safely and was not the cause of the natural gas explosion that occurred Aug. 10. Investigators are also examining customer-owned gas piping and appliances at the scene."

The utility also noted, "The data from one gas meter was found to be indicative of some type of issue beyond the BGE meter on customer-owned gas equipment and is currently being analyzed by investigators."

In its statement, BGE wrote, "No gas odors were reported to BGE from the Labyrinth Road area on the day of the explosion."

The utility also said there were no reports of leaks at the properties involved in the explosion in the past five years.

There have been more than a dozen gas explosions in Maryland over the past decade. Among the victims is an 8-year-old boy killed in east Baltimore in 2014 after a home exploded and threw debris on top of him as he walked home from school.

In 2018, BGE showed Hellgren the secure south Baltimore facility where they monitor for gas leaks and other problems around the clock.

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