NEW YORK CITY, March 30: Crews searching at the site where a building exploded in New York’s East Village found two bodies in the rubble Sunday.
The victims’ remains have not yet been officially identified, but authorities believe they are the two people who were reported missing after Thursday’s blast, New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro told reporters.
The men reported missing last week, Nicholas Figueroa and Moises Locon, were thought to have been at a sushi restaurant at the time of the explosion.
Crews are still searching the scene, Nigro said, even though it’s unlikely there are other victims.
Three buildings collapsed and four others were damaged Thursday by the explosion and raging gas-fueled fire that followed.
Nigro declined to discuss details about what caused the blast, saying an investigation is ongoing.
Gas line tampering?
Investigators are looking into whether a gas line was “inappropriately accessed” at the building where the explosion occurred, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters Friday.
Gas utility inspectors checking on work in the building’s basement left the premises about 30 minutes before the explosion.
In August, Con Edison shut off gas lines at the building for 10 days after discovering they’d been tampered with, according to Alfonso Quiroz, a spokesman for the utility.
Before last week’s blast, the restaurant’s owner had smelled gas and contacted the building’s owner, but didn’t contact authorities. That was a “major mistake,” New York Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Esposito said Sunday.
“They should have called 911,” he said. “We don’t know what the outcome would have been. But that’s what they should have done.”
For victim’s family, an agonizing wait
Nicholas Figueroa’s body was one of those recovered from the rubble Sunday, family spokeswoman Awilda Cordero told CNN affiliates NY1 and WABC.
“Thank you to everybody for all the effort they did,” she said. “Yes, it is Nicholas. They found him.”
Figueroa, who had recently graduated from college, was on a date at the sushi restaurant and went to the back to pay when the explosion occurred.
The family is devastated, she said, but relieved to learn that his body was found.
“They’ve been waiting and waiting. … This is just the beginning of doing something that they needed to do,” she said.
Locon, an employee at the restaurant, was reported missing by his brother, police sources said last week.
“I saw that young man every day, every single day we had a chat to say ‘hello how’s business,'” Michael Schumacher, who owns a grocery store near where the explosion occurred, told WABC.
“Kid worked hard for his family” Schumacher said.