East Village Blast Victim Remembered as Beloved Youth Mentor With Dreams of Helping Others

Friends and family are saying goodbye to one of the two victims of last month’s explosion at an East Village sushi restaurant.

The wake for 23-year-old Nicholas Figueroa was held Monday night at the Ortiz Funeral Home in upper Manhattan. His funeral is scheduled for Tuesday.

"We're here to show the love that we always have for him," said his father, Nicholas Figueora. "I'm here but I'm broken. My son is broken. My wife is broken. It hurts." 

Figueroa, a bowling alley worker, was on a date at an East Village sushi restaurant on Second Avenue when the building exploded, sparking a devastating fire that brought down three buildings. Figueroa and another man were killed, and 22 others were injured. 

The second victim, identified as Moises Ismael Locon Yac, a 26-year-old busboy at the sushi restaurant, will be buried in Guatemala, according to his family. 

One group of visitors at the wake worked with Figueroa at the Asphalt Green sports facility on the Upper East side, where he was a camp counselor. He spent eight weeks last summer caring for 4- and 5-year-olds, and dozens of parents have reached out to say he was their children's favorite counselor. 

"He just left an impression with the kids," said Paul Culff of Asphalt Green. "We talk about changing lives, and the fact that they remember him, remember him so vividly means that his life lives on in other people." 

Figueroa was also an Eagle Scout; his troop members remembered his community service project serving the elderly. Eagle Scout Master Luis Benitez said Figueroa has always been concerned about others and was a mentor to the younger members. 

Figueroa wanted to be a firefighter, and his brother said he was an inspiration who had big plans. Now his family are planning to honor his spirit and his memory any way they can. 

"My brother was my best friend," said Neal Figueroa. "He was a reflection of me. I want to be just like him. I can't wait to have my own little boy, he's going to have the same name: Nicholas." 

Investigators said Monday that initial evidence recovered from the site of the explosion shows signs of physical tampering with the gas line or meters, and authorities want to question the building owner's son. 

The son had allegedly gone with a plumbing contractor to the basement on the day of the explosion after the sushi restaurant's owner called to report a gas smell; the plumber told investigators he had been instructed to alter gas lines, investigators told NBC 4 New York, though it wasn't clear who allegedly told him to do so. 

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