The owner of a building destroyed by a natural gas-related explosion one year ago and four other men have been charged in New York State Supreme Court with manslaughter in the second degree, criminally negligent homicide and other charges, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
"The seven-alarm fire that killed two people and engulfed three buildings in March 2015 was caused by a foreseeable, preventable, and completely avoidable gas explosion," Vance said Thursday.
In addition to the fatalities, dozens of people were injured in the incident at 121 Second Avenue in the East Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan last March (see Daily GPI, March 27, 2015; March 30, 2015). Con Edison of New York, the utility that serves the area, had workers in the building where the explosion occurred that day to evaluate a meter installation for a new service that was going to be installed there.
The five defendants -- Maria Hrynenko, Michael Hrynenko, Athanasios Ioannidis, Dilber Kukic and Andrew Trombettas -- allegedly set up an illegal gas delivery system that caused the deadly explosion and fire, Vance said.
At a news conference in New York, prosecutors alleged that the defendants illegally tapped into a gas line meant for a street-level restaurant in the building in order to supply gas to apartments they had renovated in the five floors above it. When Con Edison discovered the tap and shut it down in August 2014, the defendants illegally tapped into another gas line in a neighboring building and connected it to the apartments at 121 Second Avenue, according to the indictment.
"Development, construction and renovation is happening across the city at breakneck speed," Vance said. "In this market, the temptation for property owners, contractors, and managers to take dangerous -- and in some instances deadly -- shortcuts has never been greater. As alleged in the indictment, the defendants created a deadly inferno fueled by an illegal gas delivery system installed at 121 Second Avenue, leading to the loss of two young lives, and leaving more than a dozen others with serious, permanent injuries."