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Video of East Village building’s explosion aftermath brings landlord on trial to tears

2019-09-10

Video footage of the collapsed remains of several East Village buildings that blew up in 2015 — killing two men — brought the landlord to tears at her Manhattan manslaughter trial Tuesday.

Maria Hrynenko, 59, began weeping and blotting her face with tissues as prosecutors played a videotaped survey of the deadly destruction they say was the result of a dangerous and illegal gas line alteration she ordered for her own greedy benefit.

Hrynenko allegedly hired general contractor Dilber Kukic, 44, and his unlicensed plumber Athanasios (Jerry) Ioannidis, 63, to rig the line in an effort to quickly get a gas feed to vacant apartments at Hrynenko’s 121 Second Ave. building.

Hrynenko, Kukic and Ioannidis are charged with manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and other charges related to serious injuries sustained by 13 survivors.

The video also captured the dramatic search through the rubble for missing victims as an NYPD officer led a trained dog through mountains of wreckage.

The explosion and inferno that consumed several buildings claimed the life of recent college graduate Nicholas Figueroa, 23, who was eating at Sushi Park restaurant on the ground floor level of 121 Second Ave. Also killed was Moises Locon, a 26-year-old worker at the restaurant.

The victims’ families were notified three days after the explosion that their relatives were found.

Figueroa’s tortured mom Ana Lanza left the courtroom as the chilling K-9 search scene played on a large television for the jury. Her husband Nixon Figueroa watched on from the gallery with a pained look.

The deadly renovation allegedly stemmed from the basement of 121 Second Ave. Hrynenko wanted to put the rentals on the market before they were safely updated to provide gas to tenants, prosecutors say.

The defendants also allegedly “improvised” a delivery system to her adjacent property, 119 Second Ave., before the blast.

It was a “blatant disregard for the well-being of others” prosecutor Randolph Clarke said Monday in his opening arguments.

Jurors watched attentively Tuesday as the footage panned across the tall piles of rubble, which were ash-covered and still steaming the day after the fire was battled by dozens of emergency responders. Red bricks and parts of splintered lumber were strewn across Second Ave. at E. 7th St.

The witness who shot the clips, a media specialist from the district attorney’s office, said it was an effort just to get in position to capture the aftermath.

“I was trying to get as much video as I could but I couldn’t walk around at that time …,” DA media specialist Victor Zambrano testified.