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Gaithersburg family is thankful they're 'still alive' after explosion

One family told WUSA9 they're just grateful to be alive this Thanksgiving. Montgomery County officials say more than 50 people are still without homes.

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — As many families sit down to Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, one family says they have a lot to be grateful for this year.

"We have a lot of things to give thanks; one of those is we're still alive," said Maria Cruz.

Cruz and her family live in Potomac Oaks. Through her bedroom window, you can see the buildings that exploded.

She was in the bedroom with her 3-year-old when the explosion happened on Nov. 16.

"Because of explosion, he fell from the bed. It was so scary. I lost my [hearing] and I think my baby did too because he was like this," said Cruz.

Fourteen people were injured and one was killed in the explosion.

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) or 988. You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging the Crisis Text Line at 741741. It is free, available 24/7, and confidential. 

Maryland's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner identified the body pulled from the explosion rubble as 36-year-old Juan Pablo Marshall Quizon. The manner of death was ruled a suicide, and the cause of death was determined to be smoke inhalation and burns. 

"There is further witness statements and evidence that also support the ruling of suicide," Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones said at a press conference Friday

"With all of the information we have gathered, to include most importantly witness statements in regards to Mr. Quizon's mental well-being, 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 told authorities 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, it is a criminal investigation, for the fact that if Mr. Quizon was still living, he would have been criminally culpable in this investigation." 

More than 50 people were left homeless. 

Cruz told WUSA9 that she and her family were provided shelter by Montgomery County for a few days, but were able to return to their homes. 

She said they're grateful that they weren't hurt, and were allowed back into their homes, but told WUSA9 "we don't feel safe."

Cruz said her apartment has water damage and there's still a lingering smell at times that she believes could be gas.

Wednesday afternoon, Montgomery County officials held a media briefing and said that all of the units at Potomac Oaks were screened by fire rescue units. They said that if anyone smells gas in their home, they should immediately leave their home and then call 911.

Montgomery County officials say more than $100,000 has been raised for the families who lost everything. They say $40,000 was distributed to the families Tuesday night, and more will be distributed to those families next week.

They said there's still a lot of need and are hoping more people will donate. If you'd like to donate, click here

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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