2014 East Harlem gas explosion

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2014 East Harlem
apartment buildings explosion
Aerial view of the explosion
Time 9:31 a.m.[1]
Date March 12, 2014 (2014-03-12)
Location 116th Street and Park Avenue, East Harlem, Manhattan, New York City
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Cause Gas leak[2]
Deaths 8[3]
Non-fatal injuries 70+[1]
Property damage Collapse of buildings located at 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue[2]
File:East Harlem apartment explosion street view.jpg
Street view of firefighters putting out the fire.

The 2014 East Harlem gas explosion occurred at 9:31 a.m. on March 12, 2014,[1] in the East Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. The explosion leveled two apartment buildings located just north of 116th Street, at 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue,[2] killing eight people, injuring at least 50 others, and displacing 100 families.[1][4][5][6]

City officials initially pointed to a gas leak as the cause of the blast.[2][7] In June 2015, the National Transportation Safety Board, which is responsible for investigating gas-related incidents, blamed failures on the part of both Con Ed, the gas company, and New York City for the explosion.[8]


The two collapsed buildings were five stories tall and stood at approximately 55 feet (17 m). Together, the two buildings contained 15 residential apartment units. 1644 Park Avenue had the "Spanish Christian Church" on the ground floor while 1646 Park Avenue had a piano store occupying that space.[2][9]

Utility company Con Edison said it received a gas leak call 15 minutes prior to the explosion and had sent its two crews to the spot; however, they arrived after the explosion.[10]

The United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) – which has responsibility at the Federal government level for investigating accidents involving pipelines and the transportation of hazardous materials[11] – said that natural gas was found in nearby soil in varying concentration. NTSB Board member Robert Sumwalt also revealed that the gas main buried under Park Avenue near the scene at 116th Street dated back 127 years to 1887.[12]


Bricks, wood, and other debris landed on the adjacent elevated Metro-North Railroad tracks, suspending service to and from Manhattan for most of the day while crews cleaned up the mess. Service was restored by the evening rush.[13]

In on-the-fly television interviews, witnesses described feeling the force of the blast from blocks away, including entire buildings shaking as though it were an earthquake, and it furthermore blew out windows in adjacent properties.

Morning television shows on the major city networks were preempted in favor of nonstop news coverage of the explosion and its aftermath.[14]

Additionally, rescue efforts were hampered by a large sinkhole that developed in front of the building just after the explosion.[citation needed]


The New York City Fire Department and the New York City Police Department responded to the scene after the explosion within two minutes.[15]

Two fire companies, quartered in an FDNY firehouse located approximately five blocks to the south, reported hearing and feeling the effects of the massive explosion and alerted the department's dispatch office. Within a short amount of time, the incident escalated to a five-alarm fire, bringing over 250 firefighters to the scene.[16]


Congressman Charles Rangel, who represents East Harlem and other parts of New York City, said, "I've never had anything this horrific that's happened in my community since I've been in Washington... This is a very serious thing. It’s our community's 9/11, even though we don't know how it started."[17]

The American Red Cross in Greater New York was on the scene and helping those displaced, but otherwise not requiring emergency medical services, using nearby Public School 57 as a makeshift center before MTA buses transported them to a Salvation Army shelter at 125th Street.[18] The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was investigating the scene.[19]

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed grief and said that there would be a search through the rubble of the building once the fire is put out.[10]


The fatalities in the explosion and collapse included eight people. Two bodies were pulled from the wreckage that were not immediately identified:[6][20][21][22][23][24]

  • Carmen Tanco, 67, dental hygienist[22][23]
  • Griselde Camacho, 44, public safety officer at Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work[22][23]
  • Andreas Panagopoulos, 43, Greek musician[22][25]
  • Rosaura Barrios Vazquez, 43, and Rosaura Hernandez Barrios, 22, mother and daughter[3][22]
  • Alexis Salas, 22, student[22]
  • George Amadeo, 42[22][26]


On June 9, 2015 the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is responsible for investigating gas-related incidents, reported[27] that faulty welding of two Con Edison gas pipes was primarily responsible for the explosion, but that it might not have happened at all if New York City had repaired a large hole in a nearby sewer main which it had known about for 8 years. The hole in the sewer undermined the soil beneath the gas pipes, causing them to sag and then crack open. Thus it was the combination of the two circumstances which caused the disaster. The NTSB also faulted local residents who did not report the odor of leaking gas, which began at least a day before the explosion, and Con Edison's failure to notify the New York City Fire Department immediately once the leak had been reported to the company.[8]

In the aftermath, Con Edison sued New York City, and the office of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio rejected the NTSB's finding of fault on the city's part, saying that the effects of sewer leakage was "localized" and did not cause the gas pipes to break.[28]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "3 Dead, Several Missing After Explosion Levels Buildings In East Harlem". CBSNewYork. March 12, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "At Least 3 Killed in Gas Blast on East Harlem Block; 2 Buildings Leveled". The New York Times. March 12, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  4. "Executive Summary, Natural Gas-Fueled Building Explosion and Resulting Fire". National Transportation Safety Board. Retrieved 23 April 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Officials: All Missing Persons Likely Accounted for in East Harlem Explosion". NY1. March 15, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 Santora, Marc; Mcgeehan, Patrick (14 March 2014). "Search for Bodies Yields to Hunt for a Cause of East Harlem Explosion". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Nine still missing after Manhattan explosion leaves at least 5 dead, 63 hurt". CNN. March 13, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 McGeehan, Patrick. "Con Edison and New York City Are Faulted in East Harlem Explosion" The New York Times (June 9, 2015)
  9. "Gas leak blamed for deadly blast in New York". Agencia EFE. March 12, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 "East Harlem Apartment Collapse toll reaches 3 with over 70 injuries". IANS. news.biharprabha.com. Retrieved March 13, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Investigations" National Transportation Safety Board website
  12. "NTSB: Abnormal Concentration Of Gas Found Near East Harlem Blast Scene « CBS New York". Newyork.cbslocal.com. 2014-03-14. Retrieved 2014-03-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Metro-North Announces Modified Schedule Due To Fatal East Harlem Building Explosion - CBS New York". Retrieved March 12, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Schuppe, Jon. "Witnesses Describe a Boom, Then Confusion". NBC New York. Retrieved March 13, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "NYC building explosion leaves 3 dead, 60 injured - Yahoo News". News.yahoo.com. 2014-03-12. Retrieved 2014-04-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Inae Oh (March 12, 2014). "Harlem Explosion Causes Collapse Of 2 Buildings, Multiple Deaths Reported". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2014-04-08. The New York City Fire Department responded to a 5-alarm fire at the scene of the collapse.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Charlie Rangel: 'Our community's 9/11'". Politico. March 12, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Red Cross Helping Residents Displaced By East Harlem Blast - WCBS
  19. East Harlem Explosion: 4 more bodies found; Firefighters battle hotspots - WABC
  20. Schram, Jamie (March 14, 2014). "1 woman remains missing after Harlem blast | New York Post". Nypost.com. Retrieved 2014-03-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "At least 7 confirmed dead, NYC building collapse investigated". Chicago Tribune. March 13, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.5 22.6 Prendergast, Daniel (March 14, 2014). "Portraits emerge of lives lost in Harlem gas blast | New York Post". Nypost.com. Retrieved 2014-03-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Sanchez, Ray (March 13, 2014). "Amid search for the missing in NYC blast, friends, loved ones reflect on those killed". CNN. Retrieved March 13, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Stewart, Nikita; Winerip, Michael; Kleinfield, N. R (March 13, 2014). "In 2 East Harlem Buildings Leveled by Explosion, Lives Entwined as in Bygone Era". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Papapostolou, Anastasios. "Manhattan Explosion: Greek Andreas Panagopoulos Found Dead". USA.GreekReporter.com. Retrieved March 13, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "7 East Harlem explosion victims identified | 7online.com". Abclocal.go.com. Retrieved 2014-03-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. "New York City, NY/Pipeline Explosion and Fire in Manhattan; March 12, 2014" National Transportation Safety Board (June 9, 2015)
  28. Chung, Jen. "Con Ed & NYC's Shoddy Infrastructure Work Caused East Harlem Building Explosion, Report Finds" Gothamist (June 10, 2015)

External links