(NEW YORK) — With the cause of a fire and explosion that destroyed several buildings in Manhattan’s East Village on Thursday still under investigation, officials Friday revealed details that may have led up to the blast.
The explosion reportedly came after the building’s owner and a contractor arrived to investigate the smell of gas, police said.
Three buildings collapsed and a fourth building was seriously damaged, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, and the fire department is still actively fighting the fire. Though the cause appears to be a gas explosion, no final conclusion has been drawn, he added.
Twenty-two people were injured — four critically, De Blasio said Friday.
No fatalities have been reported, but two people remain unaccounted for.
Two of the most seriously injured victims were Michael Hrynenko, a building co-owner, and Dilber Kukic, a general contractor working at the site who helped carry Hrynenko away from the blast, police said. Both were being treated at New York Presbyterian Hospital’s burn unit.
Con Ed inspectors arrived at the building at 2 p.m. Thursday to meet with the contractor to evaluate work being done by a plumber in the basement of one of the buildings, according to police, and the work failed inspection.
After the inspectors left, the owner of the Sushi Park restaurant, located in one of the buildings, notified a building owner, Maria Hrynenko, mother of Michael Hrynenko, of a gas odor, according to police. Michael Hrynenko and Kukic met up at the location, and when they opened the side door of 119 Second Avenue, also known as 45 East 7th Street, there was an explosion, officials said.
Officials said Kukic is answering questions and helping with the investigation.
The Department of Buildings will be inspecting all of the surrounding buildings before they are re-inhabited, the mayor said.
The gas is shut off for the immediate surrounding area and air quality has returned to normal levels in the surrounding area.
“Once the debris is cleared and the fire is fully extinguished then we will do a full investigation and clean-up,” De Blasio said, adding that the full investigation will “take days.”
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