Building owner, contractor and plumber found guilty in East Village explosion case

The gas explosion on Second Avenue near East 7th Street occurred in March 2015. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced last Friday that all of the defendants on trial for the gas explosion that occurred on Second Avenue at East 7th Street in 2015 have been found guilty.

Vance said that Maria Hrynenko, 59, Athanasios “Jerry” Ioannidis, 63, and Dilber Kukic, 44, were found guilty for their role in the fatal explosion at 121 Second Avenue on March 26 of that year that killed 23-year-old Nicholas Figueroa and 27-year-old Moises Locon, seriously injured 13 other victims and caused three buildings at the corner to completely collapse.

“This is a big win for public safety in New York,” Vance said. “As construction and development continue to boom, today’s guilty verdict puts property owners, contractors, and managers on notice: my office will pursue criminal charges against those who place expediency and financial gain over life and limb.”

The explosion was caused by plumbing and gas work that was going on inside 121 Second Avenue, which was one of the three buildings to collapse. Con Edison said at the time that the building had failed an inspection earlier on the same day as the explosion.

The fire caused by the gas explosion inside 121 Second Avenue spread next door to 123 Second Avenue and also gutted 119 Second Avenue. Nearby 125 Second Avenue was heavily fire damaged but was not completely destroyed.

The New York Times also reported in 2015 that utility workers had discovered more than seven months before the exploration that a gas line inside the basement of Sushi Park at 121 Second Avenue had been tapped and during that inspection, Con Edison workers had found that gas intended for that restaurant was being siphoned off for apartments in the five-story building above. The investigation into the illegal tapping of the gas line led to criminal charges being filed against Hrynenko, the landlord at 121 Second Avenue, Hrynenko’s contractor Kukic and Ioannidis, the unlicensed plumber who completed the illegal work on the gas line.

There had been no reports of a gas odor prior to the incident but the owner of Sushi Park had reportedly called the landlord about a gas odor on the afternoon of the explosion and instead of calling 911 or Con Edison, the son of the landlord and a contractor went to investigate themselves. The explosion reportedly occurred just as they reached the basement.

Hrynenko, Ioannidis and Kukic were convicted of manslaughter in the second degree, assault in the second and third degrees and other charges, and they are expected to be sentenced on January 10, 2020.

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