Three people were convicted of manslaughter on Friday for the fatal 2015 East Village gas explosion which resulted in the deaths of two people and destruction of three buildings.
Landlord Maria Hrynenko, 59, contractor Dilber Kukic, 44, and unlicensed plumber Athanasios “Jerry” Ioannidis, 63, were all found guilty of manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment and other charges in connection with the gas explosion at 121 Second Avenue. The explosion, which happened on March 26th, 2015, resulted in the deaths of 23-year-old Nicholas Figueroa and 26-year-old Moises Locon, and seriously injured 13 other victims.
Hrynenko owned 119 and 121 Second Avenue, and authorities allege that after renovating apartments there in 2014, she and her now-deceased son Michael Hrynenko Jr., 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 said that Hrynenko, Kubik and Ioannidis 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.
On the day of the explosion, they allegedly shut off the gas line to avoid catching inspectors' attention, and opened gas valves in the basement of 121 in the hope of passing the inspection. After the visit, Michael Hrynenko and Kukic allegedly turned the illegal gas line back on—but they didn't re-close the valves they'd opened. About 25 minutes after they turned the gas back on, a worker at Sushi Park smelled gas and notified the building owner, but it ignited and exploded very soon after.
119, 121 and 123 Second Avenue were all destroyed in the explosion, which also severely damaged 125 Second Avenue. There were multiple lawsuits afterwards, including one on behalf of 36 people who lost their homes in the explosion.
“This is a big win for public safety in New York,” said District Attorney Cy Vance said in a statement. “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...While today’s result will not bring these young New Yorkers back, I hope the Figeuroa and Locon families take a measure of comfort in knowing that this case will change the way that landlords and contractors do business in New York.”
Hrynenko, Kukic, and Ioannidis face up to 15 years in prison on the manslaughter counts, the Daily News reports.