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Missing men's bodies found in wreckage at East Village explosion site

NYPD members stand near sight of a 7

NYPD members stand near sight of a 7 Alarm fire and building collapse on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan, as seen on March 29, 2015. Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

First responders Sunday recovered the bodies of two people who went missing in last week’s explosion in the East Village.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said search crews found one of the remains 20 feet outside the entrance of 121 Second Ave., one of the three buildings destroyed in the fire, while another was discovered 20 feet inside. 

Searchers had been looking for Moises Lucon, 26, who was working at a sushi restaurant at the location, and Nicholas Figueroa, 23, who was on a date in the restaurant at the time of the blast.

Although Nigro didn’t formally identify the bodies, he suggested they belonged to the two men.

“We continue to search, although there are no other missing persons. So the feeling is everyone who had been reported missing has now been found,” he said. 

Figueroa’s family gathered at the corner of St. Marks Place and Second Avenue earlier Sunday morning, hanging onto the hope that their kin was still alive. They prayed and threw white roses into the blocked off intersection. 

“Nicholas, I'm here for you. Nicholas come home,” his brother Neal Figueroa shouted from the barricade. “Hear my voice. Don’t give up on us, we haven’t given up on you.” 

A dozen supporters joined the family chanting, “don't give up.” 

“Listen to my voice, come home,” Neal Figueroa exclaimed.

He cheered on the first responders working a block away, begging them to keep working. 

Brandon Figueroa, another  of Nicholas’ brothers, described him as a “a great person, energetic and fun.”

"He was just a happy person,” he said.

OEM Commissioner Joseph Esposito said unlike the 2014 East Harlem explosion, infrastructure is not the focus of investigation in the East Village incident.

Investigators are looking into whether an illegal gas line caused the explosion. Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters Sunday gas tampering was “particular to this building.”

He added that so far there is no evidence of “a trend” of gas siphoning from mainlines in residential buildings.

Sunday's discovery capped off a long weekend for first responders who worked around the clock to fight the remaining pockets of the fire and to search for survivors and clues in the rubble. Fire suppression ended Saturday evening and the teams used dogs to search for the missing men.

More than 1000 cubic yards of debris was searched and removed Sunday. The city said 60 apartments located near the site at Second Avenue and 7th Street are still under a vacate order, compared to 141 that were still evacuated on Saturday.

More than 60 households have registered for services through the Red Cross and the city’s emergency management office. (with Maria Alvarez?)


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