The East Village explosion on Thursday rocked New York City, causing major destruction to several buildings on the block. On Sunday, authorities found two bodies as they combed through the debris. The first identified casualty in the East Village explosion is 23-year-old Nicholas Figueroa, who was on a lunch date at a restaurant and went unaccounted for after the incident on 2nd Ave. and 7th St. The other body remained unidentified.
Figueroa and his co-worker at Bowlmor Chelsea Piers were having lunch at the Japanese restaurant Sushi Park — where the other missing person, 27-year-old Guatemalan immigrant Moises Locón worked as a busboy — that was located on the ground floor of the building when an explosion engulfed the building in flames. A bank statement has a record of Figueroa paying a $13.04 bill shortly before the explosion occurred. His co-worker stumbled out of the building after the blast to flee the massive fire that partially collapsed the building and tore through neighboring structures, the Daily News reported. She was taken to Bellevue Hospital.
According to the newspaper, Figueroa and his co-worker were on their second date. His 22-year-old brother Neal told the reporter:
It's so weird, because the girl he was on a date with is in the hospital with a broken nose.
A graduate of Buffalo State College in December, Figueroa had a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and a minor in intelligence analysis, college spokesman Jerod Dahlgren said. NBC News reported that he had worked at the bowling alley as a front desk attendant and laser tag attendant for the past few months, according to spokeswoman Leslie Norden. She added that employees were deeply concerned for Figueroa, whom she described as a hardworking colleague.
Figueroa's family continued to search for him in area hospitals and seeking the help of the police, reported the Huffington Post, but their efforts yielded no results. Tyler Figueroa, Nicholas' 19-year-old brother, said on Friday outside a makeshift Red Cross center in the East Village:
I don’t know what to do. We’re just praying that they find him. ... My father is not stable, because he’s crying so much. The police said that they’re looking into it, but we just want to know how this could’ve happened.
Early investigation into the horrific explosion found that seven months ago, utility workers discovered the gas line to Sushi Park had been perilously tapped. The source of the explosion and subsequent fire is suspected to be a gas leak, officials said. The building's landlord, Maria Hrynenko, is also reported to have fed through an inappropriate gas line from the building she also owns next door. 25 people were injured — four critically — in the explosion.
Image: Nicholas Figueroa/Facebook; Getty Images (3)