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Inspector who oversaw area where girl was electrocuted at MGM felt pressure to approve work that didn’t meet code, court document says

The MGM Casino at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

A third-party electrical inspector at MGM National Harbor, where a 6-year-old girl was electrocuted, told county officials he reluctantly accepted work that didn’t comply with code because he felt pressure to do so from other construction entities, according to a court document reviewed by The Washington Post.

An attorney for the inspector said he hadn’t spoken to his client about whether he felt pressure to approve work that wasn’t up to code but that his client was “by the book” and “safety conscious.”

The document is part of an ongoing investigation into the wiring and installation of a lighted handrail the child was swinging on before she was critically injured in a June 26 incident near the outdoor fountain area at the Maryland resort and casino.

No charges or violations have been filed against anyone or any company in the continuing investigation.

The court document indicates the code violations could lead to a criminal probe and details some of the apparent electrical flaws. The alleged flaws flagged in the document are among a larger set investigators cited in a preliminary assessment into the incident, as previously reported by The Post.

Faulty wiring cited in early investigation of 6-year-old’s electrocution at MGM National Harbor

Attorney Martin Oliverio said his client was the third-party electrical inspector who oversaw work at the MGM construction site but that his client did not inspect the specific railing under review after the child was shocked and injured.

He “has an excellent reputation,” Oliverio said. “He’s not a corner-cutter. If he sees a problem, he tells them.”

The electrical inspector has not been publicly identified.

The inspector’s attorney said he was aware of the probe and that his client’s business had been searched in the past month by police, who seized computers and electronics.

The early findings from the investigation indicate workers improperly installed a device that steps down the flow of electricity to lights on the handrail the girl touched when she swung on it, sending 120 volts of electricity through the child’s body. The voltage was 10 times the amount that should have been flowing to the lights, according to the early assessment.

The preliminary assessment also found the wrong type of electrical wiring was powering the lights under the handrail, which became loose because it was buried at an improper depth.

“MGM is disturbed and concerned by these allegations,” company spokeswoman Debra DeShong said of the alleged pressure that the third-party electrical inspector felt to approve noncompliant work. “MGM hires licensed, reputable, respected construction and inspection companies to perform work that meets or exceeds state and local building codes. The safety of our facilities and our guests is a priority of MGM Resorts. We will continue to work with Prince George’s County officials in its investigation of the accident.”

Oliverio said his client worked as a subcontractor on the $1.4 billion casino project that sits on 23 acres along the banks of the Potomac River.

The Prince George’s County Police Department, prosecutors and Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement have been investigating the incident, which left the child hospitalized for more than three months.

Jennifer Donelan, a spokeswoman for Prince George’s County police, reiterated that the department is in the midst of an ongoing investigation.

“As soon as we have information that the police chief can release to the public we will absolutely do so,” Donelan said. “This is an intricate, complex investigation that we can’t finish overnight and we are working diligently to complete it.”

Surveillance video from the casino shows that the girl and her brother were hanging from one handrail and swinging their legs to another handrail when lights in the area began to flicker, according to the court document that focuses on the electrical concerns in the plaza area. The mother then rushed to the area to pull her children away.

The girl went into cardiac arrest and another child was injured, fire and emergency medical officials said at the time. Police at the MGM casino administered CPR and revived the girl before she was rushed to a hospital. Her family has not responded to request for comment.

In an interview that occurred after the girl was injured, the third-party electrical inspector told an official with the county’s Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement that he felt pressured to approve work that didn’t meet electrical code, according to the court document.

“There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for any third-party inspector or company of any kind doing business in Prince George’s County to sacrifice public safety because of peer pressure,” said Avis Thomas-Lester, a spokeswoman for the Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement, in a statement. “The safety of all our residents, visitors, businesses and stakeholders is the reason why DPIE exists and why we take our responsibilities very seriously.”

County Executive Rushern L. Baker III “wants to make sure everything is properly investigated” by the inspections department and police “and that all investigations into this incident are thorough and transparent,” said spokesman Scott Peterson.

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