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Parents of son killed in 2015 East Village explosion weep in court as jurors shown graphic photos of his body in the rubble

2019-09-13

The heartbroken parents of a recent college graduate killed in a 2015 East Village building explosion wept openly in court Thursday as prosecutors showed photos of his mangled body among the ruins.

The graphic crime scene pictures showed Nicholas Figueroa lying face down and caked in gray dust amid piles of charred lumber and broken bricks as his remains were found three days after the massive blast and ensuing inferno leveled three buildings at Second Ave. and E. 7th St.

Prosecutors say an illegal gas line rigged by two workers on orders from landlord Maria Hrynenko sparked the March 26, 2015 fire that killed Figueroa, 23, and 26-year-old Moises Locona. Figueroa was having lunch at the Sushi Park restaurant on the ground floor of 121 Second Ave. when the explosion erupted. Locona was employed there.

Thirteen others were seriously injured, including responding firefighters.

Hrynenko, 59, general contractor Dilber Kukic, 44, and unlicensed plumber Athanasios “Jerry” Ioannidis, 63, are on trial in Manhattan Supreme Court for manslaughter, criminal negligent homicide and other counts.

Figueroa’s mother Ana Lanza and father Nixon Figueroa cried as the haunting images of their son were broadcast on a large TV screen in the courtroom. They have been in court daily since opening statements Monday and plan to be there throughout.

NYPD Det. Julianne Henry testified Thursday of the efforts to recover the bodies of both men, who were found hours apart.

“The first was easier [to find],” Henry said on direct-examination in relation to Figueroa. “The second victim, he was actually buried more. We had to do a lot more digging.”

Locon, a Guatemala native who lived in Queens with his brothers, was charred beyond recognition. He was identified by papers in his pocket, Henry said.

Figueroa’s heartbroken mother buried her face in her hands and continued to cry as the testimony wrapped up.

The trial, which is expected to last at least three months, was adjourned to Monday.