NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A second body has been found at the site of Saturday’s explosion in Brooklyn, fire officials said.
Search crews had been looking for 47-year-old Franchezka Figueroa, who lived on the second floor, since the blast that left one other woman dead and at least 12 people injured. The remains found in the rubble Monday afternoon has not been positively identified, but authorities believe they are Figueroa’s, CBS2’s Matt Kozar reported.
Figueroa’s nephew, Louis Sanchez, told CBS2’s Ilana Gold earlier Monday the family was still holding out hope.
“It’s hard, obviously,” he said. “Nobody knows nothing. It’s scary.”
Figueroa is the mother of two teenage children who have been located and are unharmed. City Councilman Brad Lander said Figueroa’s car was in the area and that her phone pinged a tower near the explosion site at 13th Avenue and 42nd Street in Borough Park. It has since gone dead.
Investigators say they believe it was a gas explosion that was possibly caused by someone who disconnected a kitchen stove, but say they’re also looking into other possibilities and aren’t ruling out criminal activity.
“She was just moving out,” Sanchez said. “I think she was just cleaning out the house. That was her last day there.”
National Grid records indicate the second-floor apartment had been without gas service since June, CBS2 reported.
The utility received a call about an odor at the building on June 29 and shut off gas there after finding a leak, records show. After a licensed plumber repaired the flue, service to the building was restored, but not to Figueroa’s apartment because she hadn’t paid her bills, sources said. The fire marshal said the lock on the apartment’s gas line was still intact after the blast.
Investigators have examined the main gas meter in the basement, and there is no evidence of a leak or tampering, sources told CBS2.
Figueroa owned a hair salon in Park Slope, where friends are leaving candles and flowers.
“She did my hair, and she was very nice and very pleasant,” said Elizabeth Reyes.
“She was a beautiful person,” said family friend Sara Diaz. “We all loved her. A very caring person.”
Sources said Figueroa recently posted messages on social media expressing thoughts of suicide, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported. However, Figueroa’s family is dismissing that, insisting there is no way it was suicide.
Surveillance video captured the powerful blast at the building Saturday afternoon.
A wine and liquor store across the street recorded the dramatic images as the fiery explosion ripped off the front of the three-story building and shook the apartments next door.
“The only thing I did is grab my family, and we all got out,” said resident Francesco Valencia.
Firefighters arrived minutes later and found the body of 64-year-old Ligia Puello in the stairwell. She lived on the third floor.
An autopsy found that her cause of death appears to be consistent with smoke inhalation and burns, sources told CBS2.
“Her daughter, I believe, is in the Dominican Republic,” said Steven Goldstein of Bencraft Hatters. “I believe she’s on the way back. I feel very, very bad. She was a nice woman.”
Puello’s friends said she was kind and gentle and often attended church.
“We prayed for her and for her family, based on the explosion that she’s not with us anymore,” said Jose Fernandez, a friend of Puello’s.
The blast was so strong, flying debris struck and injured two men and a 10-year-old child who were walking home from synagogue. One of the men and a child have been released from the hospital, CBS2 reported.
“We’re going to miss them,” store employee David Stern said. “And we hope that soon as possible they’re going to be back.”
Ten firefighters also suffered minor injuries.
The Red Cross is helping 49 people displaced by the blast.
Though the cause is still under investigation, the blast follows two other fatal gas explosions in recent years in the city. One killed eight people in East Harlem last year. And two people died in an East Village explosion this year.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the state’s Department of Public Service, which regulates utility companies, to launch an investigation into “the latest in a disturbing trend of incidents.”
National Grid said it is assisting in the investigation.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said new gas safety measures might involve requiring licensure to disconnect, replace or modify gas lines linked to home appliances.
“I have been surprised to learn how easy it is for someone to improperly disconnect, replace or modify the connection between home appliances, like stoves and hot water heaters, and the gas line,” Adams said.
City Councilman Jumaane Williams, chair of the committee on housing and buildings, is working with Adams to introduce tightened safety proposals in the council.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)