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Loved Ones Say Goodbye To East Village Explosion Victim, Nicholas Figueroa

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Family and friends said paid their last respects Tuesday Nicholas Figueroa, one of the two ,men killed in last month's explosion in the East Village.

The funeral for Figueroa, 23, was held at the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus on the Upper West Side. Loved ones paid tribute to the recent college grad, who they said lived a life of service.

As CBS2's Janelle Burrell reported, the overcast skies were a fitting backdrop for the day of heavy emotion. Figueroa's mother was inconsolable while his father became a pallbearer for his own son.

Nixon Figueroa urged the public to remember his son "how he was."

Relative Maria Valdez said Nicholas Figueroa was "very gentle, very sweet, very spiritual and -- no matter what we do, it's not enough for him. He was a good boy."

Figueroa's death shook the city, but for his family, it left a permanent void.

"He's still a child in our eyes as a parent," said mourner Wanda Melendez. "And to see that happen, you know, when it could have been prevented -- it even makes it worse."

Nicholas Figueroa
Nicholas Figueroa

Figueroa was an Eagle Scout -- a prestigious level of distinction within the Boy Scouts, Burrell reported.

"He was able to show devotion and leadership," said Boy Scout Kevin Karlson.

Relatives say Figueroa had dreams of becoming a firefighter and had graduated from SUNY Buffalo State just a few months before the blast.

"He was a good kid and he was someone that people loved everywhere," family friend Robert Perez said.

But those dreams came to an end on Thursday, March 26, when he was on a lunch date at Sushi Park on the ground floor of 121 Second Ave.

The explosion and fire that afternoon took down three buildings, and also claimed the life of busboy Moises Locon.

PHOTOS: Second Avenue Building Explosion

"It's hard enough to lose a child, but in such a sudden and violent way, it's just heartbreaking," said Nancy, who lives in a building Figueroa's father has worked in for many years.

Loved Ones Say Goodbye To East Village Explosion Victim, Nicholas Figueroa

"He was a good kid. He was a good man. Turned out to be an extraordinary man. It is tragic what happened to him," Figueroa's uncle Marcelo said.

He also said that he hopes justice will be done.

Loved Ones Say Goodbye To East Village Explosion Victim, Nicholas Figueroa

Investigators believe an illegal tap into the building's gas line may be to blame. The property owner and work crews were being questioned Tuesday for what could become a homicide investigation.

"If it's true that there was tampering, and two lives were lost, people should pay," said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

But on Tuesday, loved ones chose to focus on how Figueroa lived, and how they will now carry on his memory.

"I'm very proud of him. I'm proud of the person he was, and as family, he's someone I can look up to, and hope honor in everyday life," said godson Daniel Estrada.

No matter the outcome of the investigation, Figueroa's loved ones said they want whoever is responsible to be held responsible.

Funeral plans have not been announced for blast victim Locon, a native of Guatemala.

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