What We Know So Far
- A building exploded and "totally collapsed" in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan on March 26, the FDNY said.
- Two people died. Thier bodies were pulled from the rubble three days later.
- Mayor DeBlasio said preliminary evidence indicates a gas leak may be to blame for fire, building collapse.
- The Manhattan District Attorney has opened a criminal investigation.
Search and rescue teams scouring the wreckage of the East Village buildings destroyed in an explosion and fire last week discovered a body on Sunday, a NYPD spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
Nicholas Figueroa, 23, and Moises Lucon, 27, are still missing following the explosion on Thursday.
Prior to the blast, Figueroa had been on a lunch date at the Sushi Park restaurant, were Lucon worked as a busboy.
The NYPD spokesperson said the body has not yet been identified.
An NYPD spokesperson confirmed Saturday morning that emergency workers are still looking for the two missing men.
Moises Lucon worked at Sushi Park and Nicholas Figueroa dined at the restaurant shortly before the crash. Family members of both men were out on the streets looking for any traces.
"We have just been walking down the streets, one by one," Zacarias Lucon told the New York Daily News. "We are just so exhausted and upset. I don't know what happened to him."
According to the Daily News, Office of Emergency Management chief Joseph Esposito said he highly doubts the two men are likely to be found alive.
Speaking at a news conference Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the building explosion may have been caused by improper plumbing work.
"There's a possibility a gas pipe was accessed improperly," de Blasio said.
The mayor cautioned that the city will not issue a final determination of what happened until its investigators are able to reach the basement of the building where the explosion originated, a process that could take up to a week. But de Blasio did offer a preliminary narrative of the events leading to the fire.
Shortly before the explosion, the mayor said, inspectors with ConEd visited 121 Second Avenue for a routine review of earlier plumbing work. There, the inspectors found two people — Bronx contractor Dilber Kukic and one of his employees — doing plumbing work in the basement.
The ConEd inspectors found the work "deficient," the mayor said, and locked the building's gas main. (Kukic does not appear to have had a permit for the work.)
Around the same time, de Blasio said, the owner of Sushi Park restaurant, located at the site of the explosion, called the building's landlord to inform him of a gas smell in the building. The restauranteur, however, did not call 911 or evacuate the premises.
Fifteen minutes after the ConEd inspectors left, the building exploded, starting a fire that eventually spread to four other structures, causing three of them to collapse.
Speaking alongside the mayor on Friday, New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said firefighters continue to fight "smoldering" fires at the scene.
"The fire will not extend any further," Nigro said. "We have people at the scene to prevent that."
De Blasio said that the injury toll had increased to 22 people, four of whom were in critical condition. Additionally, two people known to have been in the buildings at the time were still missing.
A third person was unaccounted for, but there was no reason to believe he or she had been present during the explosion.
New York police, fire, and building officials are conducting investigations into possible wrongdoing.
The building where the fire originated was undergoing renovations without a permit, public records show.
The East Village building that exploded on Thursday was undergoing gas and plumbing renovations without a permit, according to public records.
Thursday's explosion, which injured at least 19 and left two people missing, appears to have originated from a gas leak at the corner of Second Avenue and 7th Street, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference Thursday.
"The initial impact appears to have been caused by plumping and gas work that was occurring inside 121 2nd Avenue," the mayor said. "Con Ed inspectors arrived at the site earlier for a separate reason entirely, found the work to be unacceptable, gave instructions as to what changes were needed – and that was an hour or more before the explosion."
The New York City Department of Buildings requires all major renovations to request a permit to ensure the safety of workers and residents. As of Friday, the last permit authorizing work at 121 Second Avenue dates from August 2014. The permit, issued to Doric Consultants Inc, allowed for mechanical and plumbing work to be done on all five floors of the century-old tenement.
Sowkon Im, a project manager for Doric Consultants, told BuzzFeed News that his company had only done the engineering work in the building and had not actually been involved in the construction.
"We only worked in the residential portion of the building," Im said. "Yesterday's incident was in the commercial part. I don't know who did the work, but it wasn't my company. Yesterday's work must have been done without a permit, because mine is the latest permit, and I singed off the project on September 2014."
A Department of Building's spokesperson confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the project for which Doric Consultants had been granted a permit was finished in September 2014, and that no further permits had been issued for 121 Second Avenue.
"If there had been a permit, it would be on our website," the spokesperson said, adding that he could not give any further details because the investigation is still ongoing.
Sushi Park, Inc, the restaurant in the commercial section of the building registered owner of at least part of the lot, could not immediately be reached for commen
There are six to eight people unaccounted for in the East Village explosion, but emergency workers are particularly concerned about two, according to a city official.
Two of the missing people have a "direct connection" to the site at the time of the explosion, the official said.
The other four to six are "tangentially" related to the site – there's no evidence they were near the building at the time of the blast, the official said. For example, a friend may have reported one of those people missing after not hearing from him or her.
The Wall Street Journal person identified a second missing person as Moises Lucon, who worked at Sushi Park.
Nicholas Figueroa is missing after dining at the sushi restaurant located on the ground floor of the building that exploded in East Village.
Figueroa and a co-worker had lunch at Sushi Park shortly before the explosion. His family told The New York Times they haven't heard from him since.
Figueroa's bank statements show he used his debit card to pay at the sushi restaurant just before the explosion. Family members are checking nearby hospitals, police departments and the Red Cross center in East Village for traces of the 23-year-old man. The person Figueroa was dining with was taken to Bellevue Hospital.
"We're just praying that they find him," Figueroa's brother, Tyler, told the Times.
A New York Fire Department video posted to YouTube Thursday showed one of the buildings collapsing during the fire.
The tally of people injured by the explosion and fire increased to 19 Thursday evening, including four who remained in critical condition.
New York firefighter Ed Long told BuzzFeed News that among those injured in the blast and ensuing destruction, 14 were civilians. Four of the civilians were in critical condition Thursday. Seven others had been taken to area hospitals with non-life threatening injuries. Three people were treated at the scene and released.
Also injured were five fire department members, Long said, four of whom were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. A medical responder was treated at the scene.
Authorities were "still tallying" the injured late into Thursday night, Long said.
BuzzFeed News reporter Mary Ann Georgantopoulos captures the scene in the streets of the East Village.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statement on the fire.
"My thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been impacted by the explosion in Lower Manhattan today. The Department of Public Service is on-site monitoring Con Edison's response to this incident and will conduct a full investigation to determine the cause of today's explosion," the governor said.
"On behalf of all New Yorkers, I thank the hundreds of first responders who put the safety of others before their own. We will continue to monitor this tragedy and do whatever is needed to support the ongoing response and recovery in the days ahead."
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Private contractors were doing work on the building's gas system at the time of the explosion.
Speaking at a press conference, Bill de Blasio said that the building was undergoing work on its gas system.
"To the best of our understanding, there were only private companies doing work at the building," de Blasio said.
But hours before the explosion, ConEd had sent a team of inspectors to supervise the work of the private contractors, company president John McAvoy said at the conference. The ConEd inspectors found the work unsatisfactory.
The private contractors did not make any calls to 9/11 or ConEd, as they should have done the moment they detected a leak, de Blasio said.
Four buildings were affected by the explosion: 119, 121, 123 and 125 2nd Avenue. "The actual explosion occurred in 121, caused it to partially collapse, and 123 collapsed as well, " de Blasio said.
"Our thoughts and our prayers are with every one of them and their families," he said. "And of course, we are praying that no other individuals are found injured, and that there are no fatalities, but that is an ongoing effort that FDNY and all other first responders are involved in."
Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference that the explosion appeared to be related to a gas leak.
A filmmaker who took video of the fire said the tried to help a worker who was stuck in the basement of the building.
Blake Farber, a filmmaker who lives in the neighborhood, was walking past the building earlier this afternoon when he noticed a strong smell of gas.
"I walked literarily 15 seconds past the building and saw two workers walking out of the residential part of the building and entering the sushi bar," Farber told BuzzFeed News over the phone.
"I went down the street and suddenly saw a huge explosion. I ran over to the scene. There was a worker downstairs, at the basement entrance. He was trying to come out. He wasn't bleeding, but his face was all powdery."
"I tried to get him out but people were telling me that I should get away because the building was going to blow up."
After the explosion, Farber said, he saw people with bloodied faces.
ConEd has shut down gas supply to the East Village as a precaution, Reuters reported.
A ConEd spokesperson did not immediately answer BuzzFeed New's questions on whether the explosion was due to a gas leak.