Bryan, TX – By MELISSA SULLIVAN
Eagle Staff Writer
A natural gas leak has been confirmed as the cause of a fatal explosion at a Texas A&M University apartment complex six weeks ago, according to preliminary findings by the State Fire Marshals Office.
In a one-page summary released late Friday afternoon, the agency said the primary source of the gas was an exterior line servicing the building where the July 31 explosion occurred. The blast killed the mother and 4-year-old daughter of a Texas A&M University graduate student and seriously injured his pregnant wife and father.
Investigators believe the gas entered the building at University Apartments through a ventilation screen, then traveled into a pipe chase and finally into the apartment, according to the preliminary findings.
The gas was ignited by an unknown source, and the force of the blast and the fire passed through an area of the apartment where the family members were, according to investigators. The cause of the fire has been determined accidental, the summary states.
It is unclear when the final report will be released. Officials with the Fire Marshals Office did not return phone calls Friday evening.
Residents reported smelling natural gas at the university-owned complex in the hours before the Saturday evening blast, A&M officials have confirmed. Maintenance crews found a leak but decided repairs could wait until the following Monday.
A criminal investigation, which is separate from the State Fire Marshals investigation, is ongoing.
Brazos County District Attorney Bill Turner has said his office will determine whether any laws were violated in connection with the explosion.
Four-year-old Lamiya Zahin, who was in the apartment with her mother and grandparents at the time of the blast, died days two days later from her injuries. Her grandmother, Rabeya Chaudhury, died this week after being taken off life support.
The girls mother, Lufthansa Kanta, and grandfather, Ejaz Chaudhury, are recovering from burns in Galveston. Kantas unborn child survived the blast.
Kantas husband, Saquib Ejaz, was not at home at the time of the blast. The two are A&M graduate students from Bangladesh.
Residents of the apartment complex which houses mostly international students and their families said Friday they were not surprised that a natural gas leak caused the explosion.
I thought that the problem came from leaking gas, said Xiafeng Wu, a graduate student at A&M. But something has to be done so something like this does not happen again. That is the bottom line.
Though A&M officials had declined to speculate on a cause, crews started replacing aging gas lines throughout the complex in the days after the blast.
Other residents said Friday they feel there should have been more to Fridays report and suspect more than one leak caused the explosion. Residents have complained the apartments have a history of problems with such leaks.
Its kind of a surprise that it was just one gas leak, said Runzhi Lai, a graduate student at A&M. It was a big explosion there has got to be a lot more leaks.