Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

FBI Will Assist in MGM Probe of Girl’s Electrocution

An investigation into how a 6-year-old girl was electrocuted at MGM National Harbor this summer will include assistance from the FBI, the Prince George’s County police chief said Thursday.

During a press conference at police headquarters in Palmer Park, Chief Hank Stawinski said the investigation will broaden its probe to look “into the systems” of failure which include permitting, inspections, design and installation processes.

Because of the many facets involved, Stawinski said the department asked the FBI to provide technical support “as a second set of eyes.”

When the $1.4 billion casino resort opened in December 2016, it was marked as the county’s biggest taxpayer and one of its largest businesses with about half being county residents by 2021. It’s also ranked as Maryland’s top casino-revenue generator since last year, including $54.4 million in September.

When asked if county officials sought to open the resort quickly and would the investigation look into malfeasance, State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks had a direct response.

Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks speaks during an Oct. 25 press conference at county police headquarters in Palmer Park to update the investigation of a 6-year-old girl's electrocution at MGM National Harbor in June as Police Chief Hank Stawinski (right) listens. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks speaks during an Oct. 25 press conference at county police headquarters in Palmer Park to update the investigation of a 6-year-old girl’s electrocution at MGM National Harbor in June as Police Chief Hank Stawinski (right) listens. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

“Whatever it takes for us to learn what happened to cause this 6-year-old girl to be electrocuted is what we are going to do,” she said. “We are not concerned about what we will find. We will find the truth in this. If that includes public corruption, so be it.”

Earlier in the day, a county official and an independent engineer hired to inspect the work presented a report to update its findings.

According to the report dated Sept. 24, a handrail in the resort’s plaza area where the girl and her brother played on the step’s stainless steel handrails on June 26 was faulty, as was the LED driver, a piece of equipment used to illuminate the rail and limit the amount of voltage of electricity from 120 volts to 12 volts.

One of the rails became loose and a wire came in contact with metal, shocking the girl with 120 volts.

Brian Gsell, a forensics electrical engineer with Forensics Analysis and Engineering, a Hampton,
Virginia-based company hired by the county to complete a report, called the work “as sloppy as I’ve ever seen.” His inspection also determined 18 of 356 electrical panels didn’t have any labels on circuit breakers, which are required as part of national code.

Gsell said the goal is to map all the circuits in one month.

“The design drawings were not followed when the handrails were installed,” Gsell said. “Had they been installed in accordance with the design drawings, the incident would likely not have occurred. The electrical installers demonstrated extremely poor workmanship, carelessness and a lack of knowledge regarding their trade.”

Haitham Hijazi, director of the Prince George’s County Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement, placed blame on the electrical company and a third-party inspector. He declined to name both companies, but felt “betrayed” of the shoddy work done.

Haitham Hijazi, director of the Prince George's County Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement, speaks with reporters at the agency's office in Largo on Oct. 25. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Haitham Hijazi, director of the Prince George’s County Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement, speaks with reporters at the agency’s office in Largo on Oct. 25. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Hijazi said “this issue is close to home” because the girl, who still recovering from her injuries, and a county inspector who oversaw the project are related.

Even with the code violations and an audit MGM must complete on all of its electrical systems and hardware by next year, Hijazi said “there is no eminent danger” to the public.

MGM Resorts International said it removed “potential hazards” in affected area immediately after the June 26 incident.

“MGM Resorts hires licensed, reputable construction and inspection companies to perform work that meets or exceeds state and local building codes,” according to the statement. “The findings of faulty wiring contained in the report shows the high standards that MGM Resorts expects of those contractors were not upheld, which is very disturbing and disappointing. We do not compromise safety when constructing our facilities.

“MGM Resorts has been and will continue to work diligently to address the recent correction orders issued by the county,” the company . We will fix any work that does not meet state and local building codes.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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