​Bodies found at site of NYC gas explosion

NEW YORK - Two bodies have been found in the debris of three apartment buildings in Manhattan's East Village which has been destroyed by a gas explosion and fire on Thursday, CBS New York reports.

The two bodies were found within hours of each other Sunday afternoon. The names of the two men found Sunday were not immediately released.

Authorities believe they are the two men reported missing after Thursday's explosion and fire that leveled three buildings and injured 22 people, including four critically. They were identified as Moises Lucon, 26, who worked inside a ground floor sushi restaurant, and Nicholas Figueroa, 23, a bowling alley worker who had been there on a date.

Figueroa's bother, Tyler Figueroa, confirmed one of the two found is Nicholas Figueroa, says CBS New York.

"I know that since he's not alive he still in our hearts and that he will always be there, and God has another angel to look after," Tyler Figueroa said.

Lucon's family provided the medical examiner with DNA samples to help identify the remains, CBS New York reports.

On Sunday, an official with knowledge of the operation told The Associated Press that some wreckage from the collapsed buildings, where 19 people were injured (including four critically), was being taken to a secure site where it would be examined again for any human remains.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the operation was ongoing, said upper layers of debris have already been removed and workers have reached the basement level at the blast site.

Workers raked through piles of loose brick, wood and debris with tools and their hands and using dogs to search the rubble. Authorities acknowledged the chances of finding either person alive were slim.

The official said workers would stop digging when they get close to the front wall of the restaurant because that section of the building must be examined as possible evidence of what caused the explosion, which authorities suspect was natural gas leaks.

Consolidated Edison said utility workers had discovered in August that the gas line to the restaurant had been illegally tapped. The discovery led Con Edison to shut down gas service to the building for about 10 days while the building owner made repairs. Gas service was restored after the utility deemed it safe, the utility said.

Inspectors from Con Ed had visited that building about an hour before the explosion and determined work to upgrade gas service didn't pass inspection, locking the line to ensure it wouldn't be used and then leaving, officials said.

Fifteen minutes later, the sushi restaurant's owner smelled gas and called the landlord, who called the general contractor, Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said. Nobody called 911 or Con Ed.

The contractor, Dilber Kukic, and the owner's son went into the basement and opened a door, and then the explosion happened, burning their faces, Boyce said. Kukic, who has pleaded not guilty to an unrelated charge of bribing a housing inspector, declined through his lawyer to comment on the circumstances surrounding the explosion.

The building had an existing gas line intended to serve the sushi restaurant; the work underway was to put in a bigger line to serve the entire building, Con Ed President Craig Ivey said.