5 charged in deadly New York gas explosion
NEW YORK – Five people were charged Thursday in connection with a deadly 2015 gas explosion in New York’s East Village that a prosecutor said was “foreseeable, preventable and completely avoidable.”
The blast and ensuing seven-alarm fire killed two people and leveled three buildings in a heavily traveled section of the East Village in March 2015, scattering debris for blocks and forcing street closures.
The owner of one of the destroyed buildings, Maria Hrynenko, 56, and her son Michael, 30, who managed the building, as well as two plumbers and a general contractor have been arrested on charges ranging from second-degree manslaughter to criminally negligent homicide, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. told reporters Thursday.
The defendants are accused of creating a fiery blast “fueled by an illegal gas delivery system” at the Second Avenue building owned by Hrynenko, according to Vance.
Moises Locon, 27, an employee of a sushi restaurant in one of the buildings, and Nicholas Figueroa, 23, who was having lunch in the restaurant, were killed. More than a dozen other people suffered serious injuries.
Vance blamed the deaths and injuries on the “temptation for property owners, contractors, and managers to take dangerous — and, in some instances, deadly — shortcuts.”
Defendants constructed “illegal, unsafe gas delivery system”
In 2013, Hrynenko hired Dilber Kukic, 40, as a general contractor to renovate several properties in New York City, including a five-story building in the East Village with four floors of housing and a street-level restaurant called Sushi Park, according to the indictment.
Kukic then hired Athanasios Ioannidis, 59, a plumber who was not professionally licensed, to do work on the East Village property, prosecutors said. The plumber allegedly paid a former partner, Andrew Trombettas, 57, for the use of his master plumbing license to submit the required paperwork for the job with the city buildings department and gas utility, Con Edison.
Hrynenko, meanwhile, had entered into lease agreements with tenants of her Second Avenue building in 2014 but Con Edison had not yet approved the installation of gas meters, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors said the defendants constructed an “illegal, unsafe gas delivery system by installing a series of pipes and valves” linking the apartments to a commercial gas meter in an adjacent property also owned by Hrynenko.
On March 26, 2015, a Sushi Park employee reported the smell of gas to Hrynenko, prosecutors said. Surveillance video showed Kukic and Michael Hrynenko sprinting out of the restaurant at one point that day without warning customers or workers. The explosion occurred moments later.
Hrynenko, her son Michael, Ioannidis and Kukic are charged with second-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault, criminally negligent homicide, third-degree assault, and second-degree reckless endangerment.
Ioannidis is also accused of falsifying business records. Trombettas is charged with offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree.
Attorneys for the defendants were not immediately available.