2nd body found in rubble of Brooklyn explosion; Victim's relative talks exclusively to Eyewitness News

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Second body found amid rubble in Brooklyn explosion
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Jim Dolan has the story.

BOROUGH PARK (WABC) -- A second body has been found in the rubble of a Brooklyn apartment building following an explosion that has apparently claimed the lives of two women.

The second victim has not been positively identified, but it is expected to be 48-year-old Francisca Figueroa, who has not been heard from since before the blast Saturday.

She was supposed to be evicted on Thursday and was in the process of moving, and the mother of three was believed to be in the apartment at the time of the explosion.

"Sad, sadness and pain in my heart," family friend Sara Diaz said. "She didn't deserve this. Nobody deserves this. It's a bad tragedy for the family.

Ligia Puello, 64, was found in the hallway and pronounced dead at the scene from severe burns. Her sister-in-law spoke exclusively to Eyewitness News.

"She was a very religious woman," Juana Puello said. "She was a humble person. She was a family woman. Her husband just died a year ago. She lived there with her daughter. Her daughter had gone off to the Dominican Republic to visit her son. She was alone...Her mother is an older woman, and she used to go every day to take care of her mother, who lived on Seventh Avenue. She didn't go the day before yesterday because she didn't feel well. She had a bad headache."

Had Puello gone to her mother's that day, she might still be alive.

Crews had cleared much of the debris at the site in Borough Park as they slowly searched for Figueroa, who was on the phone with her sister Milagros just seconds before the explosion.

"She was a fighter, a real hard worker," she said through a translator. "She never said no to anything. She was very calm, and she said she had to clean. It was less than five minutes, and I never spoke to her again."

City Councilman Brad Lander has been by the family's side.

"Her car was here, her phone was here," he said. "One of her relatives spoke with her in the building somewhat earlier in the day, and they haven't hear from her since then."

Officials say Figueroa was evicted from the building on Thursday and was planning on bringing her gas stove with her, and that stove is now the focus of the investigation into the cause of the blast. The stove was located and taken to be studied, but according to National Grid, the gas had been shut off to the apartment for lack of payment.

Investigators will now look into whether any gas lines were tampered with or locks broken, although there is no immediate indication of that. The FDNY says even though they initially attributed the explosion to an improperly-disconnected stove, many investigative leads are being pursued. National Grid was last in the building in late June to fix a relatively minor gas leak. The leak was fixed and service restored, but that is when the company began addressing the missing woman's non-payment.

"That woman is a hard worker, all the years that I've known her," friend Frankie Diaz said. "She's had several business, she's always working, making money for her kids."

Debris also struck two men and a 9-year-old who were walking on the sidewalk at the time. They are expected to survive.

Five buildings have been vacated, and two of them are expected to demolished.

Related story: Investigators search for woman still missing after deadly Brooklyn explosion