Two Missing After Buildings Collapse in Gas-Linked Explosion in NYC

NYC building
Firefighters at the site of a residential apartment building collapse and fire in New York City's East Village. Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Two people are missing after an explosion rocked New York City's East Village on Thursday afternoon. An explosion at 121 Second Avenue ignited a fire, and, eventually, the building collapsed. Neighboring buildings fell later on Thursday evening, even as as firefighters tried to fight the flames. On Friday morning, firefighters were still on the scene. A former deputy fire chief estimates it will take days to fully put out the fire.

Over two dozen people were hurt, including three who were in critical condition yesterday. Of those missing is Nicholas Figueroa, who was dining at Sushi Park, a restaurant on the first level of 121 Second Avenue. "Right now we don’t really know what to do, we’re just praying," Figueroa's father, Nick Figueroa, told the New York Daily News. "I don’t know what to do. I’m gonna go crazy if my son is not here." The other missing person is Moises Lucon, an employee of Sushi Park, the Daily News reports

Hundreds of firefighters were brought in to fight the flames. On Thursday evening, blocks surrounding the scene were shut down as firefighters used hydrants near First Avenue to pump more water to the flames. A man who left his motorcycle in front of 121 Second Avenue was directed by police officers to the Red Cross station set up at a nearby elementary school. "It's probably there. But it is definitely drenched," the officer said. 

The exact cause of the explosion is unknown, though the mayor said a preliminary investigation points to an issue with gas in the building. Before the explosion, around 2 p.m., inspectors from Con Edison determined a meter recently installed at the meeting was not up to code. Con Edison shut off gas to the area after the blast. 

Dilber Kukic, a contractor working on 121 Second Avenue, is currently being investigated for bribing city inspectors, according to local news website DNAInfo. Kukic told DNAInfo that they checked the basement after smelling gas yesterday. "As soon as we opened the basement door, there was an explosion, a fire. It was full of smoke. The debris was on top of me." According to Kukic, the building owner was aware of the gas smell before the explosion and subsequent fire occurred.