3 convicted in East Village explosion that killed 2 men

East Village Explosion
FILE – In this March 27, 2015, file photo, a pile of debris remains at the site of a building explosion in the East Village neighborhood of New York. Three people were convicted of manslaughter, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, in the 2015 East Village building explosion that killed two men. (Nancy Borowick/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Three people were convicted of manslaughter Friday in the 2015 East Village building explosion that killed two men.

They also were found guilty in Manhattan state Supreme Court of assault charges for injuries to 13 people in the massive blast that leveled half a block in a crowded neighborhood filled with shops and restaurants.

During the two-month trial, prosecutors said the deadly explosion was triggered by a gas line that was installed illegally.

The two men who died were a guest and a busboy in a Japanese restaurant housed in the building on Second Avenue owned by Maria Hrynenko.

The blast killed 23-year-old Nicholas Figueroa and 26-year-old Moises Locon. The injured included former fire department Battalion Chief Edward Tierney, who testified that he is in constant pain from the injuries he suffered battling the blaze after the explosion.

The other two defendants were plumber Athanasios Ioannidis and contractor Dilber Kukic.

The three, who were arrested in 2016, are expected to be sentenced in January. They also were convicted of reckless endangerment, and Ioannidis of falsifying business records.

“As construction and development continues 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,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement after the conviction. “This is a big win for public safety in New York.”

Ioannidis was operating without a license, and Hrynenko urged both men to do the work as fast as possible, before Con Edison could approve work at the site, prosecutors said.

They said Hrynenko was motivated by greed.

“What was it that made these three defendants circumvent all the rules they were aware of?” prosecutor Rachana Pathak asked at the end of the trial, according to The New York Times. “Money, money, money.”

Her attorney, Michael K. Burke, argued that Hrynenko was not directly involved with installing the gas line and had hired a contractor to renovate apartments in the building, with tenants waiting impatiently for gas to be hooked up.

Another plumber, Eric Pacheco, had previously pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter. And a third plumber pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Hrynenko’s son, facing charges in connection to the gas installation, died before he could go on trial.

— Verena Dobnik