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Three months, still unanswered questions for those who lived in the Potomac Oaks Condo that exploded

On Nov. 16, 2022, a building at Potomac Oaks Condominiums exploded. Months later, residents are still searching for answers and help.

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Editor's Note: The story below contains mention of death by suicide. If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging the Crisis Text Line at 741741. It is free, available 24/7, and confidential.  

It's been three months since an explosion and fire at a Gaithersburg condo complex. Fourteen people were hurt and Maryland's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner identified a body pulled from the explosion rubble as 36-year-old Juan Pablo Marshall Quizon. His manner of death was ruled a suicide, and the cause of death was determined to be smoke inhalation and burns. 

"With all of the information we have gathered, to include most importantly witness statements in regards to Mr. Quizon's mental wellbeing, this is why it draws us to this conclusion," Jones said. 

Quizon's mother reportedly called 911 Wednesday morning after the explosion to report her son missing and said he was despondent and suicidal after losing his job as a scrap metal worker. She was unaware he had purchased his condo, which he had bought in August. 

"At this moment in time, we have no information to believe that Mr. Quizon intended for other individuals to be injured or harmed in this particular incident," Jones said. "But I will state, as I noted yesterday of this being a probable criminal investigation, it is a criminal investigation, for the fact that if Mr. Quizon was still living, he would have been criminally culpable in this investigation." 

Since then, some of the residents have voiced frustration about the communication, or lack of communication they've had with the Potomac Oaks Condo Association.

For three months, the residents of Potomac Oaks Condominium, specifically building 826, told WUSA9 they feel like they've been left in the dark about future plans. They told WUSA9 they're frustrated because they're still being required to pay HOA fees.

"We are mandated to continue to pay homeowners fees for a home that no longer exists," said Traci DiMartini.

On Dec. 1, WUSA9 listened in on a community meeting held for the victims of the Potomac Oaks explosion. They were told that the money from those fees would go towards rebuilding, but that the process of rebuilding could take a year.

Some of the residents told WUSA9 Friday evening that they still haven't been told a timeline of when the building will be demolished and when their new home will be rebuilt.

"I am paying for a home that no longer exists, as are 23 other families and no one is telling us when to expect the rebuilding process to start. They only care about collecting condo fees," said DiMartini.

"It's money coming out of our pockets and we're all basically homeless," said Marc St-Jour. 

He lived in building 828. He told WUSA9 he was at work on the morning of November 16th when his wife called.

"She's crying and telling me I think the building is on fire. I said what are you calling me for, get out of there. and it just disconnected," he said.

St-Jour told WUSA9 he ran out of work and drove as fast as he could. As he arrived he saw the building in pieces with flames pouring out.

"I see the fire and I'm like oh my God there's no way my wife and kid could be alive," he said.

Credit: Family

By some miracle, they were alive. 

At the same time, Jason was inside building 826 where he lived. 

"I heard a loud bang. I looked out the window whole front of the building was scattered on the ground," said Jason.

He told WUSA9 he remembers trying to help his bloodied neighbors escape as flames and smoke quickly spread. 

"I don't think I'll ever forget that," he said Friday evening.

Three months later he and Marc looked on at the debris that was once their homes.

"I thought this would have been taken care of a long time ago," said Marc.

On February 14, the families told WUSA9 they received an email from the Potomac Oaks Condo Association, letting them know that the construction company had submitted an application for two demolition permits. One for building 826 and the other for building 828.

Credit: Family

The families said they still haven't received a timeline on when their homes will be rebuilt. They also want a clearer picture of what happened that caused such a massive explosion.

"We need answers, there are people that need to answer for this and people that need to compensate the families for this," said Jason.

WUSA9 has reached out to the Potomac Oaks Condominium Association but has not received a response.

A fund was created by MHP to help the families of the Potomac Oaks explosion. 

WUSA9 is told more than $138,000 was raised, and the majority has been distributed to the families. They will continue to collect money until Feb. 28.

To donate, click here. The county says 100% of it will go to the families.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support for those in crisis 24/7 simply by dialing 988 or 1-800-273-8255.

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