East Village Building Collapse May Lead to Criminal Charges

The Manhattan District Attorney is overseeing the investigation into the deadly building explosion that occurred last month in the East Village. The explosion caused two buildings to collapse and ignited a large fire that quickly spread to neighboring buildings, injuring at least 19 people and killing two.

City officials said they suspected that leaking natural gas was the source of the explosion and fire that destroyed the buildings. Last summer, the owner of the restaurant in one of the buildings reported a gas leak, and he stated that firefighters and Con Edison employees at that time determined that gas intended for the restaurant was being siphoned off for use in the newly renovated apartments upstairs in the five-story building.

Since then, the restaurant owner said he had frequently checked to make sure his gas line was not tapped again. He said he had checked within the last month and had never seen any sign of tampering. That is why, he said, he suspected the owner had chosen instead to draw gas for the apartments from the building next door.

The District Attorney is reportedly considering homicide charges in the case. Since the explosion, a plumber has reportedly admitted to investigators that he rigged the upper gas system to heat the upper floors of the five-story building. The plumber claims he was told to do it by the owner's son.