Funeral held for East Village explosion victim Nicholas Figueroa

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Darla Miles reports on Tuesday's funeral services for 23-year old Nicholas Figueroa, one of two young men killed in the explosion in the East Village. (WABC)

Funeral services were held Tuesday for the young man who was on a lunch date in the East Village when a gas explosion leveled the restaurant where he was eating, and then led to the collapse of several buildings.

The service for 23-year old Nicholas Figueroa was held at Holy Name Church on the Upper West Side.

Those who loved Nicholas clutched a single red rose between their fingers, holding them close to their hearts. "This keeps Nicholas close to us," said family friend Vicki Gershwin.

"The red rose is the meaning of the love we share for him and the family," said family friend Gladys Bryant. The family, his father, brother and cousins, all served as pallbearers at the funeral.

"The service was beautiful, it was very intimate, and a wonderful goodbye. Not goodbye, but until we see each other again, that's the way I see it," said Bryant.

"I spoke about how people should not think of this as an act of God, but an act of man," said his former scoutmaster Luis Benitez, who spoke at the funeral.

An act of man with possible criminal implications. Investigators believe the gas line may have been tampered with, triggering the explosion that killed Figueroa and 26-year old Moises Locon nearly two weeks ago. Locon will be buried in Guatemala.

"Somebody should be held accountable. I don't care who it is, but somebody should be held accountable," said family friend Martina Garcia.

For the Figueroa family, accountability comes later. This day was about honoring the legacy of Nick.

"This gives a good feeling inside that he's with God. We'll miss him dearly but he's always going to be in our hearts," said friend Edgar Garcia.

A wake was held Monday for Figueroa at a Manhattan funeral home. "He was a good boy. He did everything right since the day he was born until the day he died. We're going to miss him," said Nixon Figueroa, the victim's father.

The police say the investigation could take weeks or months, but Figueroa's brother says, that shouldn't be necessary.

"Step up, take the blame for what it is. You did it, you made a mistake, things happen, it's a tragedy. It happened, it occurred, but don't give everyone the runaround," said Neil Figueroa, the victim's brother.

Figueroa had just graduated from college. Besides college, he had become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in scouting.

"His community service project was to serve the elderly, and he's always been concerned about people, a mentor to our youth," said Benitez.

"I'm here but I'm heartbroken, my son is broken, my wife is broken, you know it hurts. You all have family, kids, you know this situation comes and this is what happens," Nixon Figueroa said.

Services for the other man killed in the explosion, 26-year-old Moises Locon, have not yet been announced.

Police announced Monday that the investigation could lead to charges of criminally negligent homicide, with NYPD Special Operations tweeting out a picture of the gas pipes in the basement of the restaurant. Over the weekend they posted, "#ESU members are still tirelessly working to gather evidence at the site of the #EastVillageCollapse."

The explosion and fire on March 26 injured 22 others and brought down three buildings along Second Avenue. Officials are looking into whether someone had illegally tapped into a gas line.

Investigators have secured cooperation from at least one of the people involved with the basement gas work in the collapsed building where the explosion originated.

They are attempting to question other people who may have knowledge of what happened before the collapse.

The investigation is expected to take weeks to months and will eventually go to a grand jury for possible charges.

Investigators continue clearing out the area around the basement gas plumbing, which they found surprisingly intact under the debris of the collapsed buildings.

Con Edison workers, including the same inspectors who viewed the piping less than an hour before the explosion, are being brought down to the basement to help determine exactly what happened.
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