RAFU WIRE SERVICES
NEW YORK -New York authorities identified the eighth and final victim of a gas leak explosion in East Harlem as Mayumi Nakamura, a 34-year-old Japanese citizen who was residing in the building.
Eight people killed in a suspected gas explosion that leveled two Manhattan apartment buildings died of either blunt trauma, smoke inhalation or burns, officials said March 17.
The autopsy results were released as investigators continued to examine the circumstances of the March 12 blast that also left more than 60 injured. All of the deaths were ruled accidental.
Nakamura died from burns, according to the coroner’s office. Five victims — Griselde Camacho, Carmen Tanco, Andreas Panagopoulos, George Amadeo and Rosaura Barrios — died from combinations of blunt trauma injuries to the head, torso and extremities, said medical examiner spokeswoman Julie Bolcer. Two others, Rosaura Hernandez and Jordy Salas, died from smoke inhalation and burns.
The New York Times reported that Nakamura was living in the New York apartment building with roommates who were also Japanese. She grew up in Yamaguchi Prefecture and moved to New York last March to attend art classes. Nakamura had also lived in Los Angeles for 10 years from 2001, according to The Times. Family members, including her mother, Keiko, traveled from Japan to receive her ashes.
The blast erupted about 15 minutes after someone from a neighboring building reported smelling gas, authorities said. The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates pipeline accidents, said Friday that underground tests conducted in the hours after the explosion registered high concentrations of natural gas.
On March 17, emergency workers continued to sift through debris in search of clues that might reveal what caused the blast. The investigation is focused on basement meters and pipes, and on possible ignition sources, such as light switches, officials said.
The NTSB had been expected to begin pressure-testing pipes Sunday. An NTSB spokesman declined on March 17 to say whether there has been any progress.
A fundraising drive has been launched to help those affected by the explosion. The money will support a relief plan that includes a victims’ assistance fund to go toward funeral arrangements, rent and household expenses. The plan also includes counseling and outreach to immigrant communities.