NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The jury has begun deliberating the fate of three people charged in 2015 East Village gas explosion that killed two people and injured more than a dozen others.
The building’s owner Maria Hrynenko, general contractor Dilber Kukic and unlicensed plumber Athanasios Ioannidis were all charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. They’re accused of running an illegal gas line into the building at 121 Second Avenue.
CBS2’s Alice Gainer spoke exclusively with a woman who was on a date at the restaurant in the building when it happened.
Looking at the pictures and video, it’s hard to believe anybody survived the blast. But Teresa Galarce-Garcia did. She says wants to see justice done.
“What happened that day, a crime was committed,” she said. “That could be my family, your family. That could be anyone’s family.”
Galarce-Garcia was on a date at Sushi Park on the ground floor with Figueroa, who was killed. Galarce-Garcia suffred a punctured lung, broken ribs and a broken nose, among other injuries. And then there’s the mental anguish.
“Some days I’ll go out and I’ll be sitting at a restaurant and I’m really cautious about a lot of things,” she said.
Families for the two victims have been a constant presence in court.
“It’s so hard because I thinking about my brother all the time. It’s too hard for me to stay here,” Locon’s brother said.
Closing arguments began in the case Tuesday. Defense attorneys showed pictures of a water heater from the basement seemingly intact to back their claim that the explosion happened in the kitchen of the sushi restaurant on the first floor, not the basement like prosecutors allege.
However, prosecutors argue the owner – who managed several buildings – had newly renovated apartments to lease but no gas service to them. Not wanting to miss out on rent, prosecutors say she leased them anyway, and the trio illegally tapped into one gas line to service tenants in another building.
The owner’s attorney said his client simply hired people to do work and knew nothing about an illegal gas line.
Jurors began their deliberations Wednesday afternoon.
Outside of court, there was still no comment from the defendants.
“He’s concerned and that’s understandable,” said Roger Blank, the attorney for Ionnidis. “And he just hopes the jury will do their job the best they can, and we hope for the best.”
The jury deliberated for about an hour. They will resume deliberations Thursday morning.
Hrynenko, Kukic and Ioannidis each face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of top counts.