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Speeches

Board Meeting: Natural-Gas Explosion in the East Harlem section of New York - Opening Statement
Christopher A. Hart
NTSB Conference Center, Washington, DC
6/9/2015

​Good afternoon and welcome to the Boardroom of the National Transportation Safety Board. I am Christopher Hart, and it is my privilege to serve as Chairman of the NTSB. Joining me are Vice Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr, Member Robert Sumwalt and Member Earl Weener. I would like to recognize Member Sumwalt for his excellent service as spokesman for our on-scene investigative activities regarding this accident.

Today, we meet in open session, as required by the Government in the Sunshine Act, to consider the report on the natural gas-fueled building explosion and fire in New York City on March 12, 2014.

The violent explosion occurred at about 9:30 a.m. The explosion and subsequent fire destroyed two adjacent multi-use buildings in the East Harlem district of Manhattan and caused Metro-North Railroad to suspend rail service in the area for about 7 ½ hours due to debris on the track. Costs to Consolidated Edison (Con Edison) for equipment damages, emergency response activities, remediation and replacement exceeded $1.9 million.

The tragic human costs cannot be overstated: eight people died, more than 50 people were injured and more than 100 families were displaced from their homes.

On behalf of the NTSB, I would like to express our condolences to those who lost loved ones and our best wishes for the fullest possible recovery to those who suffered injuries. We also recognize the suffering of the many people who lost their homes.

We cannot change what happened, but in fully investigating this accident, we hope to find ways to prevent such an accident from happening again.

The question after such a tragedy is always “Why?”

Why did the gas pipe fail, creating the conditions for the explosion and fire?

Why did a breach in a sewer line in the vicinity of the destroyed buildings go unrepaired for 8 years, causing the soil that was supporting the gas main to be washed away?

These are only two of the questions raised by this accident, which was years in the making. The report that we consider today examines these questions, and others, comprehensively and objectively. The Board will answer these questions through thorough and methodical examination of evidence.

 

We hope that this report provides answers that will help prevent similar circumstances from occurring in the future.
Now Managing Director Tom Zoeller will introduce the staff.
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