[Aerial photo of 119-123 2nd Ave. from March 27, 2015]
Jury selection is set to start today for Maria Hrynenko and two others for their role in the gas explosion on March 26, 2015, that killed two men, Nicholas Figueroa and Moises Locón, and leveled three buildings — 119, 121 and 123 Second Ave.
The trial could last as long as three months in Manhattan Supreme Court, the Daily News reports.
Hrynenko, her son Michael Hrynenko (now deceased), contractor Dilber Kukic and their plumber Anthanasios Ioannidis illegally tampered with the gas line at 121 Second Ave. then failed to warn those in the building before the blast, according to the Manhattan District Attorney.
Charges against Hrynenko, Kukic and Ioannidis include second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and several counts of assault in connection to more than a dozen injured victims.
This past March, the fifth defendant, Andrew Trombettas, was sentenced to probation and community service. Trombettas had previously pleaded guilty for his role in rubber-stamping a modification to 121 Second Ave. prior to the explosion. The D.A.'s office charged him with two counts of "Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony."
The News has comments from Kukic’s lawyer:
The defense is expected to argue that tampering was not the root cause of the explosion.
“I think the DA is going to try and show that there were all these irregularities regarding the gas piping,” said Kukic’s lawyer Marc Agnifilo. “None of that is what caused the gas to leak.”
Instead, he said, the gas leak came from the restaurant’s kitchen where workers heard a “hissing.”
“They smelled gas for months prior to the explosion. It was not a one-time thing,” Agnifilo said.
If the fire started in the kitchen, the defendants are expected to argue that couldn’t be blamed because their potential liability would have been isolated to basement operations.
“I don’t think the DA will ever really conclusively pinpoint what the problem was, where the gas came from,” Agnifilo [said].
Hrynenko and the defendants had made 25-plus courtroom appearances since February 2016, which all ended the same — "adjourned/bail continued."
Shaky Cohen's Nexus Building Development Group paid $9.15 million for the empty lots at No. 119 and No. 121 that Hrynenko owned. In a previously recorded transaction, Ezra Wibowo paid $6 million for the adjacent property at 123 Second Ave. that was owned by a different landlord who had no role in the explosion. There isn't any development planned there for now, according to previous reports.
Workers have been quickly erecting the Morris Adjmi-designed building at 119 Second Ave. — officially 45 E. Seventh St. — that will feature 21 condo units and ground-floor retail. The new building will include a commemorative plaque that honors Nicholas Figueroa and Moises Locón.
Previously on EV Grieve:
Updated: 2nd Ave. explosion — landlord, 3 others charged with 2nd degree manslaughter; showed 'a blatant and callous disregard for human life'
RIP Nicholas Figueroa
RIP Moises Ismael Locón Yac
A family continues to feel the loss on 2nd Avenue
Exclusive: 2nd Avenue explosion sites have a new owner
Dedicating Moises Locón Way and Nicholas Figueroa Way on 2nd Avenue at 7th Street