Inspectors on Friday found illegal gas hookups in the Bronx apartment building where just a day earlier an explosion left 10 people injured, including six children, and blew a front door off.
The Department of Buildings inspectors said they found the illegal hookups to washers, driers and a hot water heater on the ground floor. There were no permits issued for the work, but it's not yet clear if those connections played a role in the blast. The FDNY is investigating to determine the cause of the explosion.
A man at the scene said he was helping utility crews access the explosion site. Attempts to reach the owner of the building were unsuccessful.
The report of an explosion in the Bronx came in just before 3:30 p.m., the Fire Department of New York said. Two people in serious condition were taken to the hospital, as were six other people with minor injuries, including a firefighter. One person refused medical attention at the scene.
The condominiums where the blast occurred are located near the corner of Poplar Street and Paulding Avenue in Parkchester.
A mother who lives in the building and her two young children were stuck on the second floor after the explosion blew doors, glass and even the window guard off their home. The impact was so powerful that it sent the front door of one of the units flying into power lines across the street.
A video taken by a witness showed Norma Martinez with the woman's 6-month-old baby in her arm after she convinced the mother to do the unthinkable: throw her toddler out of the window.
"She was trying to jump out the window with her baby," Martinez recalled.
"I was just like this with nothing there, so she was afraid. But when I took my coat off, she saw the baby had something to fall on," she said, holding up her arms.
Elvis Copa, another neighbor, then climbed a ladder to help bring the mother and her 4-year-old daughter Hollyanna Gonzalez to safety as well.
Martinez says baby Madison's hair and eyelashes were singed but her sister Holly was seriously hurt. She said Molly has two broken legs and "something happened to her lugs because of the impact." Marco Soto, the father of the two young girls, was grateful for all the help they have received and praised his wife for her actions.
"I want to thank everyone who helped sincerely, and also want everyone acknowledge the fact that if it wasn't because of my wife Evelyn Gonzalez thinking fast and getting both children, they probably wouldn't be here," Soto said.
Another victim who survived the explosion said he heard cries of "my baby!" and all he could think about were the children.
"I see a hole in the ceiling and I’m hearing voices scream from the hole," Adriel Sambolin said. He and his grandfather were on the ground floor and the explosion caved in their ceiling. They're among at least four families who have been displaced.
Authorities were able to determine that the building is still structurally stable despite severe damage to its interior, with residents ordered to vacate. Two buildings next door also suffered damage from the explosion and all residents have been offered relocation assistant by the American Red Cross, DOB officials said.
A gas leak appeared to have set off the powerful explosion, according to fire officials. The Department of Buildings said plumbing inspectors were investigating the gas system in the building to investigate further.