Watch CBS News

Police: 2nd Body Found At Site Of East Village Explosion

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Two bodies have been found in the rubble of last week's East Village building explosion, police said.

The bodies were discovered about two hours apart from each other Sunday afternoon.

Two men went missing Thursday when the blast and fire leveled three apartment buildings on Second Avenue at East Seventh Street.

Though police have not released the identities of the deceased, Tyler Figueroa confirmed one of the two found is his brother, 23-year-old Nicholas Figueroa, CBS2's Matt Kozar reported.

"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.

The other body is believed to be 26-year-old Moises Locon.

His family provided the medical examiner with DNA samples to help identify the remains. It could take up to a week before they have a definite answer, Kozar reported.

The two men were believed to have been in the sushi restaurant on the ground floor of one of the collapsed buildings.

PHOTOS: East Village Explosion

During a news conference Sunday, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the bodies were found about 20 feet away from each other.

Firefighters using binoculars from the upper floors of a building next to the debris pile spotted the bodies.

Nigro said they don't expect to find any more victims.

"Two people that have been reported missing, we think we found those two," Nigro told reporters, including 1010 WINS' Roger Stern.

Emergency workers had been painstakingly looking for signs of the two, scooping through piles of loose brick, wood and debris with their hands and using dogs to search the debris. Authorities acknowledged the chances of finding either person alive were slim.

An official with knowledge of the operation told The Associated Press that rubble removed from the scene was being taken to a secure location to be screened again for human remains.

Police: 2nd Body Found At Site Of East Village Explosion

Twenty-two people were injured in the explosion, officials said.

Figueroa's family was at the site on Sunday, cheering on first responders and urging them to keep searching for him, WCBS 880's Monica Miller reported.

Friends of the family came with white flowers and threw them over a barricade set up by police. They are asking for others to bring white flowers and pray for the family.

Locon's brother, Alfredo, shared the last time he saw his brother with CBS2's Kozar.

"Last week he came here, he was playing with my daughter and my son," said Alfredo Locon. "And he said we go to the park, just playing and he said OK I go home. After that I didn't see him anymore."

Police: 2nd Body Found At Site Of East Village Explosion

Earlier Sunday, Consolidated Edison said that seven months earlier, utility workers discovered that the gas line to a restaurant in one of the buildings had been illegally tapped, creating a hazardous situation.

On Aug. 6, a meter reader at the restaurant detected the smell of gas and reported it, said Con Ed spokesman Allan Drury. A gas crew dispatched to the site found multiple leaks in a gas line that had been tapped, Drury said, adding that the restaurant was the only customer in the building authorized to receive gas.

The discovery led Con Ed 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, Drury said.

City officials suspect that leaking natural gas was the source of Thursday's explosion and fire, which sparked a raging blaze that took hundreds of firefighters to quell. Mayor Bill de Blasio visited a firehouse Saturday to thank some of them.

The Manhattan district attorney's office has reportedly launched an investigation into the blast.

Officials estimated it could take a week of 24-hour-a-day work to sift through the heap. "It's going to be slow and arduous," fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

Front loaders and heavy machinery are being used to pull the wreckage from the site and onto Second Avenue, WCBS 880's Jim Smith reported. Once it's checked, it's loaded onto tractor-trailers.

Con Edison: East Village Building Gas Line Was Illegally Tapped Months Before Blast

Once investigators have access to the basement, they'll try to pinpoint the cause of the explosion, de Blasio said.

Plumbers in the basement may have made an illegal connection from the building's gas line to feed through newly installed piping, sources told CBS2.

As some of the several evacuated buildings near the explosion site were declared safe for residents to return, Micha Gerland stood at a police barricade and surveyed the remains of his apartment.

"I still don't believe it," said Gerland, 37, who escaped with nothing but his wallet, phone, keys and the clothes he was wearing. "Who thinks that something like that happens?"

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.

"As we do in all cases, when a customer is upgrading to a new gas service, we conducted very, very careful inspections at this location," a Con Ed spokesman told 1010 WINS' Kevin Rincon.

Con Edison: East Village Building Gas Line Was Illegally Tapped Months Before Blast

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.

Building management reportedly told tenants to report any gas problems to them, not to Con Ed or 911.

The landlord didn't respond to calls and emails Friday and Saturday from The Associated Press seeking comment.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.