NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Heartbroken family members held a vigil for one of the two men killed in the East Village building explosion and fire last week, as investigators shift their focus to what caused the blast.
Nicholas Figueroa, 23, was a bowling alley worker who had gone on a date to Sushi Park, on the ground floor at 121 Second Ave. just north of Seventh Street. The explosion on Thursday afternoon went on to level the building, as well as its neighbors at 119 and 123 Second Ave.
His body has been identified by relatives. Another body found in the rubble was believed to be 26-year-old Moises Locon, a busboy at the sushi restaurant.
About 100 people gathered near the building Monday night to mourn Figueroa.
“It’s a tragedy what happened to my brother,” the victim’s brother said to the crowd. “We loved him. He was such a good kid.”
The devastated family members thanked those who worked tirelessly to find Figueroa’s body. They released white balloons as the crowd applauded.
“We had faith you guys was going to find my brother,” the victim’s brother said. “We thank you.”
Also in the crowd was Therese Galarce, the woman with whom Nick Figueroa was on a date at Sushi Park when the explosion happened.
She somehow returned to the scene Monday, with bruises still visible around her eyes.
Nick Figueroa’s mother and father also said a few words.
Sultan Bagudu — Nick Figueroa’s former roommate at SUNY Buffalo State — also talked about his friend to CBS affiliate WIVB-TV, Buffalo. Figueroa graduated from the upstate school in December with a degree in criminal justice.
Bagudu told the station that his former roommate had a quirky personality and could turn anything into a joke.
“He would say something pretty ridiculous. And everybody would just laugh,” Bagudu told WIVB.
Bagudu was also in New York City at the time of the explosion, but did not know Figueroa was at Sushi Park when the explosion happened, WIVB reported.
“It could have been avoided. Like he could have simply maybe went to another restaurant. Or maybe went to that same place maybe an hour later or an hour earlier,” told WIVB.
His family said they now want justice for his death.
“He was beautiful. I can’t wait until I see my son again so I can hold him, kiss him and tell him I love him,” said Figueroa’s father.
“He came out in one piece, and that’s the most we can ask for, that’s what we were praying for,” said Figueroa’s mother, Ana.
INVESTIGATORS PROBE CAUSE OF EXPLOSION
Meanwhile, with the two bodies recovered, investigators have shifted their focus to the cause of the blast.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said someone may have improperly tapped a gas line before the explosion. Consolidated Edison said workers discovered in August that a line had been illegally tapped.
By the hour, crews continue to get closer to the basement and gas line where officials believe the explosion originated, retracing what they describe as fatal missteps before the blast.