Fatal blast rocks Borough Park, killing one and injuring more than a dozen

Fatal blast rocks Borough Park, killing one and injuring more than a dozen
Photo by Mark Mellone

A massive gas explosion obliterated a 13th Avenue building in Borough Park on Saturday, killing two, injuring 13, and igniting a blaze that spread to three neighboring structures.

The blast shook the block between 42nd and 43rd streets at 1 pm on Oct. 3, and annihilated the façade of the building’s second and third stories.

At the height of the resulting blaze, nearly 200 of New York’s Bravest were at the scene with 44 vehicles and, by midday Monday, units were still on station at the site of the explosion, picking through the rubble in search of a cause for the catastrophic event.

“There are vast amounts of debris,” said a fire department spokesman.

By the time firefighters arrived at the scene, the explosion had already claimed the life of Ligia Puello, 64, whose body was discovered lying on the stairwell of the burning building.

Three pedestrians who were caught in the blast, including a 10-year-old boy, were struck by falling debris and had to be rushed to nearby hospitals with serious injuries.

Sifting through the wreckage on Monday afternoon, fire fighters discovered a second body amidst the ruins.

Police and firefighters had been searching for another woman, who has been missing since the time of explosion, although it is not clear whether the second body recovered from the blast site is the missing woman, according to a fire department spokesman.

Additionally, 10 fire fighters suffered injuries in the battle to bring the inferno under control, according to the fire department.

The Department of Buildings issued full vacate orders for five properties neighboring the site of the blast, displacing 49 residents. This was mainly done because of the heavy machinery and labor-intensive excavation necessary for the investigation into the cause of the blast, according to fire officials, rather than continued danger from gas.

Investigators believe the fire originated on the building’s second floor, where tenants had removed a stove that was connected to the building’s gas line, although the investigation remains ongoing, according to fire commissioner Daniel Nigro.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.