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Baltimore gas explosion: Morgan State student found dead among rubble; BGE says no leaks found

The gas explosion that killed two people in Northwest Baltimore was caught on a RING.com camera footage on Labyrinth Road. (Video courtesy of Dominique Bass)

A second victim, a 20-year-old Morgan State University student, was found early Tuesday in the rubble of a gas explosion in Northwest Baltimore as BGE said the blast wasn’t caused by one of its gas mains.

Workers continued to investigate and clean up the scene of the explosion that also killed one woman and seriously injured at least seven other people. It ripped Monday through several row houses in the Reisterstown Station neighborhood in Northwest Baltimore, displacing 30 people.

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The father of Joseph Graham, 20, a rising Morgan sophomore and City College graduate, confirmed that his body was recovered from the wreckage. The father, who was visibly distraught and surrounded by supporters outside his home, declined to comment further. Morgan State also confirmed Graham’s death in a statement.

As officials continued to assess the cause of the blast — a process that could take months — BGE said that it found no leaks in an inspection Monday of the homes’ gas mains, and that company data indicated “some type of issue beyond the BGE meter on customer-owned equipment.” Investigators were analyzing the new information, BGE said.

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“We are committed to cooperating fully with the investigators in finding the cause of the explosion,” the utility company said in a statement.

Five of the seven people injured are in critical condition, said Baltimore Fire Department spokesperson Blair Adams. Adams said the agency did not have the names or ages of the people who were killed or injured, and would not confirm that Graham was among the victims.

Thirty residents utilized temporary shelter after the blast, among around 200 affected by the explosion. Adams said the displaced residents would not be able to return to their homes Tuesday, but officials were working to bring them back so they could collect their belongings.

Crews remained at the scene Tuesday, sifting through debris and investigating the area as officials continue to look for answers to exactly what caused the blast.

The explosion occurred shortly before 10 a.m. Monday and destroyed three two-story row homes in the 4200 block of Labyrinth Road, just behind Reisterstown Road Plaza shopping center near the city-county line.

The three homes are all owned by Leroy and Robin Johnson, of Owings Mills, who did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

BGE said there had been no leaks reported at the properties within the past five years. All of the BGE gas mains and service pipes in the neighborhood were routinely inspected for leaks in June and July of 2019 with no leaks found, the company said.

The Labyrinth Road gas main and the service pipes were inspected again Tuesday, BGE said in a statement, and no leaks were found.

Angelo White reacts to seeing the damage after a gas explosion destroyed his former home.

While some neighborhoods are inspected on a yearly cycle, Labyrinth Road, where the lines were installed during the 1960s, is inspected every three years.

Natural gas was resupplied Tuesday to some of the gas main and service pipes along part of the road, leaving 34 customers still without service, BGE said. BGE now will begin to restore their service, it said.

Baltimore City Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young called the explosion “something I’ve never, ever witnessed in my lifetime” and called on the city to pray for and continue to help those affected.

City Council President Brandon Scott said that neighbors rushing to the scene and pulling residents from the rubble showed “the true spirit of Baltimore.”

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“We had Baltimoreans rushing to try to save their neighbors from something that you just don’t expect to see in a city,” Scott said. “You saw an entire city, really an entire region, come around those people yesterday, and that’s what I’m thankful for.”

On Monday night, Graham’s family members had said they were was still searching for him after they reported he was at a party Sunday night in one of the homes that exploded. Isaac Graham, Joseph’s uncle, told The Baltimore Sun that his nephew had stayed the night after the party and he was worried Joseph was still trapped under the rubble because family members hadn’t been able to reach him since Sunday night.

Graham’s City College classmate Ty’lor Schnella recalled him Tuesday as someone who lifted everyone’s spirits. He said he had a popular YouTube channel, which listed more than 7,000 subscribers, and sold clothing.

“I would never think something like this could happen to him,” Schnella said.

One of his former teachers, Lena Tashjian, remembered Graham in a post on Instagram as “someone whose maturity, insight and level of self-reflection was unparalleled."

Resident Moses Glover talks about the major gas explosion that ripped through homes in his Reisterstown Station neighborhood.

“He was a listener, a thinker, a leader,” Tashjian wrote. “Joseph was a natural mathematician but when he discovered writing, he put pen to paper and never let go.”

At the scene Tuesday, Janice Rochester looked in angst at the boarded-up windows of several homes surrounding her as she described how BGE crews, police officers and fire department officials worked the scene “all night long.”

She was at work when the explosion occurred, but she called it “the worst thing that’s happened in this neighborhood” during her 24 years living there.

Rochester’s home is 450 feet away from the explosion site, where several full and empty bottles of water could be seen in a pile of trash several feet from other piles of debris.

Rochester said she was hopeful the neighborhood would rebuild itself because she returned home to find several residents cleaning up the debris overnight.

“To see everybody come together yesterday was a blessing,” said Rochester, who is 58. “It’s a very decent, quiet neighborhood, and everyone always comes together. We cut grass together, and we do everything together. To see something like this, the loss of life, is something else.”

Titus Smith, who has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years, works at the Dollar Tree that’s 900 feet away from the site of the explosion.

Smith was waiting for an inventory truck to arrive at the store when the explosion occurred, he said. Smith said he evacuated the store “in a panic mode” when the explosion hit.

Smith and several other residents ran toward the scene because a friend of his mother’s lives a couple of doors down from the site of the explosion.

“Who would expect an explosion?” said Smith, 38. “I had to help. It was bad. We were down there when the body was there. We saw it, and it was bad. It was so unexpected. To go down to your neighborhood where you live at and to see it in pieces.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Phil Davis, Phillip Jackson, McKenna Oxenden and Talia Richman contributed to this article.

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