Harlem explosion leaves 6 dead, 9 missing, officials say

Officials say a number of people were unaccounted for after a gas leak caused an explosion that reduced two buildings in East Harlem to rubble, killing at least two people and injuring others on March 12, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / Chris Ware, News 12 Long Island)

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Six people were killed and 62 injured in the East Harlem explosion that leveled two buildings Wednesday, and the search continues for nine occupants who are unaccounted for, city officials said.

Griselde Camacho, 45, Carmen Tanco, 67 and Rosaura Hernandez-Barrios, 21 were confirmed as having died in the incident, with the fourth victim identified as a male body and a fifth and sixth victim pulled from the rubble overnight, officials said. Andreas Panagopoulos was among the nine who remained missing late early Thursday.

The National Transportation Safety Board said investigators will focus on Con Edison's response to the gas leak that caused the blast.

"We want to find out not only what happened, but we want to find out why it happened . . . to make sure something like this never happens again," said NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt, shortly after a team of investigators arrived at the scene Wednesday evening.

Those investigators will look at any possible issues with the distribution pipeline that delivers natural gas to the five-story buildings and how Con Edison handled the situation, Sumwalt said.

"We will be looking at Con Edison . . . their integrity management system, seeing how they handled complaints . . . oversight of Con Edison by federal and state officials," Sumwalt said.

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Investigators will look at Con Edison's call log and at any evidence of third-party damage by digging, he said.

Con Edison said the utility is "going to be cooperating with all agencies."

The explosion killed six and injured dozens of others, hurling debris onto the elevated Metro-North tracks along Park Avenue, shattering windows in the neighborhood and sending people running into the streets as a plume of smoke rose above the skyline.

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One victim was identified Wednesday night as Sgt. Griselde Camacho, a public safety worker at Hunter College. Camacho worked in the Silberman School of Social Work building. She has been a public safety officer there since 2008, Hunter College president Jennifer J. Raab said in a statement.

"Our hearts go out to Griselde's family at this terrible time," Raab said. "We know this is a difficult time for all those who knew and worked with Sergeant Camacho, whether at the Silberman School or as part of the public safety office. All of you will be in our thoughts in the days ahead."

The others, identified by Bethel Gospel Assembly four blocks from the site of the explosion, were members Carmen Tanco and Griselde Camacho.

The two women each lived at 1646 Park Avenue in separate apartments, Ruth-Ann Wynter, 97-year-old Bethel's director of ministry relations, said in an interview.