LANDOVER – Prince George’s County Police Department Chief Henry “Hank” Stawinski and State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks offered an update on the investigation of a six-year-old girl’s being electrocuted at the MGM National Harbor in June, detailing expanded efforts at a press conference on Oct. 25 at PGCPD headquarters.
Stawinski explained the investigation has shifted from trying to identify “a single point of failure” that led to electrocution to examining “the systems that associated themselves in the process of construction.”
The department found there was not a sole perpetrator or cause of the accident, rather multiple factors that contributed to the electrocution.
The incident occurred on June 26 near a fountain outside of the complex, when the child touched a handrail energized with LED lights. She was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, where she has remained for the past four months.
The initial investigation found an electrical issue in the installment of the lights on the handrail, which led to the electrocution of the child and an MGM security officer who attempted to save her, the latter sustaining non-life-threatening injuries.
A preliminary assessment on Sept. 25 revealed the LED driver, designed to control voltage output, was supposed only to allow 10 volts through the handrail lighting but instead shocked the victim with 120 volts. The report detailed several code violations, including poor wiring and improper installment.
“This is a complicated fact pattern, unfortunately,” Alsobrooks said. “What’s uncomplicated about it is we have a six-year-old girl that was gravely injured on June 26 at the MGM…What we are essentially saying today is that we will spare no resource in learning what happened to her. We believe she deserves answers, and her family deserves answers.”
Dr. Haitham A. Hijazi, Director of the Prince George’s County Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement, held a press conference before Alsobrooks and Stawinski discussed the findings of a report prepared by an outside forensic investigator.
Hijazi confirmed the findings discovered by the preliminary assessment that faulty wiring and improper installment of the lights led to the electrocution. He also said poor electrical work and bad inspection practices are to blame for the incident, not the county inspector charged with overseeing the project.
“It’s shoddy work done by that contractor and a failure by the third-party inspector,” Hijazi said.
The third-party inspectors “probably didn’t inspect” the site at all because the work was so poorly done which “violated their own code of ethics” by not catching the egregious installment mistakes, Hijazi said.
Officials have not named the third-party inspector or the electrical company responsible for the infrastructure issue. Hijazi said “disciplinary actions” were taken against both parties, though he did not provide specifics. Stawinski confirmed no arrests had been made and no charges have been filed against a person or organization.
The department is no longer searching for a “single bad actor,” though it is not ruling out any parties involved or the possibility of criminal activity. Prior investigation has made the incident itself straightforward, with law enforcement now focused on how the structure at fault was assembled so incorrectly. Stawinski said the next step is to review the design, permitting, installation and inspection of the site to find what went wrong in the construction process.
“Each of those four components now needs to be examined because we do not have a single point of failure,” Stawinski said. “My vow to the community is that we will now look at those systems and we will identify where the failures occurred, provide answers for the family of this child and for our community.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is assisting the department on the case and has been involved for the majority of the process, providing knowledge beyond the current capabilities of local law enforcement.
“I felt it was necessary to bring them in as a second set of eyes and as a tremendous technical support,” Stawinski said. “We’re talking about a very complicated case, and it revolves around infrastructure and construction, and all of the things that come with that. Their technical expertise lies outside of our experience as Prince George’s County Police.”
Neither Stawinski nor Alsobrooks gave a timeline for the conclusion of the investigation, both saying it would be a complicated procedure that will take some time. The nature of the accident and the litany of errors that contributed to the situation have brought queries regarding corruption and incompetence to the forefront, as well as probes about the possible pressure to complete the MGM project.
“Those are the questions the changing focus (is) intended to answer,” Stawinski said.