FBI Joins Probe of MGM National Harbor’s Construction Phase

MGM National Harbor Probe

Four months later, the 6-year old girl remains hospitalized.

The FBI joined the investigation into the cause of several electrical shocks received by a child swinging on a lighted handrail at the MGM National Harbor. Prince George’s County police had been leading the investigation until Thursday.

PGPD Police Chief Hank Stawinski said the investigative team plans to examine “systems” that caused life-threatening injuries to a 6-year old girl who was swinging on the handrail. The child remains hospitalized with serious injuries after being electrocuted with 120 volts — 10 times what should normally have been running through those wires.

Stawinski said his investigators will look at possible design flaws, as well as mistakes made in the licensing, installation, and inspection process for the casino, which is located on the shore of the Potomac River approximately 10 miles from Washington D.C.

The $1.4 billion MGM National Harbor was called an “economic game changer” for Prince George County, because of the huge number of visitors it was likely to receive from the nation’s capital. Now the FBI is joining a probe of the building process, to see whether MGM Resorts cut corners in the construction process.

“We Will Find the Truth”

Angela D. Alsobrooks, the Maryland state attorney for Prince George County, said the investigators plan to look into the possibility of public corruption. Alsobrooks said at the Thursday press conference, We will find the truth in this — if that includes public corruption, so be it.”

The county has a recent history of corruption, as former county executive Jack B. Johnson was arrested in 2010 and put on trial on corruption charges. Eventually Jack Johnson spent more than 5 years in prison for destroying evidence in a corruption scheme.

Washington Post Report

The Washington Post obtained a report of a preliminary inspection which showed improper wires were used, the installation of “powering” was faulty, and railing was improperly installed — which led to the faulty wires being exposed less than 2 years after installation.

The Baltimore Sun summarized the preliminary report:

“The engineer’s findings confirmed a preliminary assessment obtained by The Washington Post that showed powering for the lights on the metal handrail was improperly installed and used the wrong type of wiring and that the railing was installed at a shallow depth, leading to movements that frayed protective coatings and brought bared wiring into contact with the metal railing.”

The six-year old girl was shocked by 120 volts of electricity — well beyond the amount which should have been flowing through the handrail lights at the MGM National Harbor. Four months after the tragic incident, the girl remains hospitalized.

Director of Permits and Inspections

Haitham A. Hijazi, who serves as Prince George County’s director of the Department of Permitting, Inspections, and Enforcement, said he felt “betrayed” by the third-party inspector who approved the wiring. Hijazi also expressed a sense of betrayal by the electrical contractor. Of course, it was Hijazi who hired a third-party inspector instead of sending a county inspector.

Hijazi held his own press conference a few hours before Hank Stawinski and Angela Alsobrooks. Suggesting the case was isolated and therefore did not indicate widespread corruption, the Director of Inspections said, “There were only problems in that one location.”

Mr. Hijazi speculated that the third-party inspectors probably do not inspect the electrical systems where the little girl was injured, because the work there was “so shoddy” (that any inspection would have caught it).

The Director of Inspections said he attended weekly executive meetings at the MGM National Harbor as it was being completed. He said no electrical systems were reported “out of compliance” with Prince George County or Maryland state regulations. He also said there is “no imminent danger” to visitors of the MGM National Harbor. In the 4 months since the incident, inspectors have checked electrical wiring that visitors might encounter and corrected any problems.

Year-Long Electrical Systems Inspection

An independent engineer, Brian Gsell, the engineer from Forensics Analysis & Engineering, studied the wiring on the lighted handrail said the job that was done was “terrible” and “some of the sloppiest work” he had seen. The incident happened in June 2018 and the engineer was hired to inspect the wiring as a disinterested third party inspector.

Brian Gsell said in his report, which also was released on Thursday, that MGM Resorts has been given a year to inspect all electrical systems in the massive casino-resort. Gsell called for priority attention to be paid where the problem contractors were known to have worked.

MGM Resorts Press Statement

MGM Resorts spokeswoman Debra DeShong released a statement saying the company (in general) “hires licensed, reputable construction and inspection companies to perform work that meets or exceeds state and local building codes.”

DeShong added that, “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.”

She said that MGM Resorts would work to see all building standards were met in the future.