East Village Explosion Building Manager, Who Was Indicted For Manslaughter, Dies At 31

The leveled site in the East Village in 2015
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The leveled site in the East Village in 2015 Getty Images

The building manager of two East Village buildings that exploded in 2015 who was charged with manslaughter for his role in the blast died last month.

EV Grieve reported that an obituary for Michael Hrynenko Jr. was posted on a funeral home's website; the page has since been taken down, but read, "Michael A. Hrynenko, Jr. 'Mischou', 31, passed away on Friday, August 25, 2017. Cherished son of Maria Hrynenko and the late Michael A. Hrynenko, Sr. Loving brother of Crystal Wezwick and husband Bryan, Sherry Hrynenko and Natasha Hrynenko. Adored uncle of Luke and Cullen. He is also survived by many loving relatives and friends... A funeral service will be private."

Hrynenko's mother Maria Hrynenko owned 119 and 121 Second Avenue, and authorities allege that after renovating apartments there in 2014, she and her son, who acted as the building manager, demanded that the gas be turned on even though Con Ed hadn't approved the gas meters. The Manhattan DA's office says that Maria Hrynenko and others, including a contractor and an unlicensed plumber, schemed to set up illegal siphoning of gas from a ground floor restaurant, Sushi Park, to serve the apartments that she wished to rent out. They also allegedly turned off the siphoning when Con Ed would inspect the building.

From the DA's office's press release on the charges:

At approximately 2:00 p.m. on March 26, 2015, two Con Ed employees arrived at 121 Second Avenue to perform an inspection. Prior to the inspection, [ATHANASIOS] IOANNIDIS and [DILBER] KUKIC manipulated the gas delivery system by shutting off the gas supply connecting 119 and 121 Second Avenue and opening the shut-off valves. Because of several deficiencies with the proposed gas meter location, Con Ed employees did not approve their installation. At the time, there was no sign of leakage or odor, and the full extent of the unauthorized gas delivery system remained hidden from inspectors’ view.

After failing the inspection, KUKIC and MICHAEL HRYNENKO went down into the building basement and turned on the gas supply from 119 Second Avenue without checking whether the gas valves were open. The shut-off valves, which were in fact open, allowed gas to flow through the pipes and out of the uncapped meter bars into the restaurant.

At approximately 3:00 p.m., a Sushi Park employee smelled gas and notified MARIA HRYNENKO, who instructed KUKIC to check on the source of the odor. Surveillance footage depicts KUKIC and MICHAEL HRYNENKO entering the Sushi Park basement and then swiftly sprinting out of the restaurant without warning any of the patrons or workers and running toward the East 7th Street entrance to the building basement, where the illegal gas delivery system was set up.

Soon thereafter, the gas—which had been flowing through the pipes and out of the uncapped meter bars—ignited and caused an explosion. Moises Locon, an employee of Sushi Park, and Nicholas Figueroa, a diner, who were both inside the restaurant at the time of the explosion, were killed. At least 13 other individuals suffered serious injuries as the lower floors of 121 Second Avenue buckled and caught fire, which quickly spread and destroyed adjacent properties, leading to the eventual collapse of the properties at 119, 121, and 123 Second Avenue.

Maria Hrynenko, as well as Con Ed, the city and others, was served with multiple lawsuits over the explosion. The land where Hrynenko's building once stood was sold for over $9 million earlier this summer.

In October of 2016, the Orangetown Daily Voice reported that Michael Hrynenko, who was living in Sparkill at the time, was arrested for DWI.

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