Family, friends and community members gathered Tuesday morning to remember Nicholas Figueroa, one of the two men killed in last month’s East Village explosion.
Figueroa, 23, was on a date at Sushi Park at 121 Second Ave., and had just paid the check when the explosion ripped through the restaurant. Moises Locon, who worked there as a busboy, was also killed.
Figueroa was laid to rest as police appear to be investigating the case as a homicide. A preliminary investigation has found the gas line was illegally hooked up.
“It’s something that could have been prevented,” said Wanda Melendez, who lives on the Upper West Side and attended the funeral. “ All these landlords and Con Ed should check on these buildings. Unexpected visits, not give them the time to change the hookup.”
“This is an act of greed. If it was my son in that casket, I would expect homicide charges,” Melendez said outside of the church.
“This was not an accident, this was a man-made disaster that could be prevented,” said Dan Simon, an East Village resident who attended the service. Simon said after the funeral he would like to see a park as a permanent memorial to remember the short lives of Figueroa and Locon.
Figueroa’s brothers and other family members, many of them wearing buttons with Figueroa’s smiling face and red roses on their lapels, carried his casket into Church of the Holy Name of Jesus on West 96th Street. The altar of the church was still decorated with Easter lilies for the Catholic funeral, and the pallbearers wept as they carried Figueroa’s body toward the altar.
Figueroa was remembered as a giving person by Eagle Scout Master Luis Benitez during the service. Rev. Larry Ford thanked first responders during the service. Ford said Figueroa was baptized and confirmed at the church, and that his mother, Ana, taught Sunday school classes there.
“We prayed for his soul, as much as we can do for him, it’s not enough,” said Maria Valdez after the service, who knew Figueroa since he was a boy. “He was a beautiful person… very gentle, sweet and spiritual.”
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer attended the service, as well as Hal Payne, Vice President for Student Affairs at Buffalo State. Figueroa graduated from the school last year December with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.