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Fumes Explode in Brooklyn, Killing Worker and Injuring 2

The New York Times

Click Here for an Extensive Newscast of this event (NY1)

Fumes from a waterproofing spray ignited and set off an explosion in the basement of a Brooklyn home yesterday morning, killing a 27-year-old workman and severely burning two others, one of whom staggered out into the backyard in flames.

The blast ripped through the kitchen floor of the three-story home on East 31st Street in Flatlands just seconds after a resident, Tzipora Friedman, walked out of the kitchen into the living room to look at fabric samples with a decorator who had come to the house, according to a cousin who spoke to Ms. Friedman yesterday. Her husband, Joseph Friedman, and their six children were not home.

Fire Department officials said that the man who was killed, Antonio Tapia of Burlington, N.J., and the other two workers were in the basement building a mikvah, or small pool, to be used for ritual baths that Orthodox Jewish women take before their wedding and after giving birth…

More pictures in the Extended Article.

The area was poorly ventilated, officials said, allowing fumes from the spray to build up, although it was not clear yesterday what caused them to ignite. The blast buckled and cracked one side of the house, blew out several of its windows and was strong enough to crack or shatter windows, glass doors and skylights in several other homes. “I heard a big explosion,” said one neighbor, Emmanuel Chevalier, 51. “I felt vibrations, and I heard screaming. I saw a man naked with fire all over his body.” Mr. Chevalier rushed to help put out the fire, pushing the worker to the ground and telling him to roll over, while he grabbed a hose and doused the man with water. “He was bleeding all over — but not from cuts,” Mr. Chevalier said. “His skin was on fire. It was terrible.”

The police said that one of the surviving victims, a 30-year-old man, was taken to Jacobi Medical Center, while the other, 26, was taken to Staten Island University Hospital. Both had severe burns covering large parts of their bodies, and were listed in serious condition late last night.

“It was a powerful blast,” said Robert Byrnes, an acting assistant fire marshal. The department was investigating whether a water heater, power tools or even a light switch might have ignited the vapors. Fire officials said that the spray compound was stored and heated in a truck parked outside the house, and was then run through a hose into the basement, where it was being used to waterproof the bath.

A Fire Department spokesman, James Long, said yesterday that the workers’ employer, J. M. Pereira & Sons, a Langhorne, Pa.-based contractor, had been issued two summonses for storing more than five gallons of flammable liquid without a permit.

Carl Pereira, the owner of the company, arrived at the scene of the explosion yesterday afternoon and said that the workers had been employed by the company for two to five years. “Our prayers are with them and their families,” he added. “It was a tragic work accident, but we don’t know what happened.”

Ilyse Fink, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Buildings, said that the house’s owner, Mr. Friedman, had not obtained a permit for the construction work. The department issued a stop work order on construction at the house.

One of the Friedmans’ children, Menachem, 13, told reporters, “I was at school when someone told me my house exploded,” and he ran home to see what had happened. He told reporters that his mother was unhurt, and that his five siblings — ranging from 5 to 21 — had not been home.

Will Pang, 33, an advertising art director who lives two doors from the Friedmans, said that the blast woke him up.

“It was like a tremor, like a mini-earthquake,” Mr. Pang said. “It knocked down my CD rack in the room. It just shook.” When he walked outside, he said, he saw no flames — only smoke, and smelled a stench like gas. The glass windows on his car were blown out, and the blast dented the door of a garage nearby, he said.

A woman named Devora, 36, who refused to give her last name but said she was a cousin and neighbor of the Friedmans, said that it was “a miracle” that Ms. Friedman had left the kitchen when she did. “God was watching over her,” she said.


  • 1. Whos is it? wrote:

    What is the name of the contracting company or who is the contractor?

  • 3. Yossi P wrote:

    this is the contractor

    Pereira & Sons J M Company, located at 2330 Big Oak Rd, Langhorne, PA 19047

  • 5. Contributor wrote:

    IY"H Oholei Torah will hire a contractor who is more careful to build its new mikvah.

  • 7. Attention concerned wrote:

    They are frum and it happened in a very frum neighborhood- usually when it says building a jewish ritual bath that means a mikvah and reffers to a yiddishe home

  • 9. mother in CH wrote:

    Unfortunately the owner of the home is screwed.
    He hired some guys who weren’t licensed and the mikvah had NO permits from the city.
    Unforunately the families will sue him too.

    Hashem should help this poor man and his family but we should all take a lesson- ALWAYS hire contractors with A LICENSE! and ALWAYS go ahead first with the city when you need to do "extra" on your home!!!

  • 10. newyorker wrote:

    who’s house
    were the people hurt ok now
    are they jewish
    we need more info

  • 13. ich to: Whos is it? wrote:

    it says is the news clip wich cantacting company it was

  • 15. ditto to attention concerned wrote:

    you took the words out of my mouth! i mean usually its jews building mikvas in their houses, not italians… do you people think before you ask these things?!

  • 17. Isaac wrote:

    The house owner is :

    Friedman, Joseph
    1166 E 31st St
    Brooklyn, NY 11210

  • 18. Concerned! wrote:

    "A Fire Department spokesman, James Long, said yesterday that the workers’ employer, J. M. Pereira & Sons, a Langhorne, Pa.-based contractor, had been issued two summonses for storing more than five gallons of flammable liquid without a permit."

    Here is a lesson: hire local contractors who are properly licensed! These people may not have followed local safety regulations. Very sad that someone died and others were injured severly.

    Thanks as always for our dedicated FDNY as well as our volunteer EMS responders!

  • 19. mindy wrote:

    I’m reading all the comments here, and just laughing at most of you. Either you don’t know how to read, or you just didn’t bother reading the article before asking your questions….

    "where did this happen?"
    "were they jews?"
    "who’s the contractor?"
    "did it happen in ch?"
    all of these questions are adressed in the article.

    to new yorker.
    all the info has already been given, you just didn’t bother reading it, or just don’t understand everything that’s already written, and being more detailed in that case wouldn’t be of much assistance to you.

    to mother in ch:
    did you do your research on that company, or are you just suggesting that they’re not licensed based on your own inference and conclusion from reading the article? The article doesn’t say that they are not a licensed company, it just says that they didn’t insure a permit for this particular job.
    please be careful with loshon hara and rechilus! (you wouldn’t like to be the victim of such talk, so don’t do it to others, before double, and triple checking your sources for such statements.)

    In general. this just goes to show you how unsmart and unsafe it is to play games with regulations in construction and such with the city and fire department, we may decide that they’re just being malicious or anti-semites etc. for not giving us an easy time with obtaining permits and such, but in the long run, it IS for your own safety!!

  • 20. MidwoodMan wrote:

    For those that asked from out of town this is in the area around Vigler or Liberow in Flatbush. Its a very frum area all around with a number of anash living in surrounding areas.

    The issue here in my opinion though is evidently B"H they have money to do over an entire house, and to not think or consider or lehavdil actually getting a darn PERMIT is soooo stupid …for those that understand ;)

    Chevra, don’t be silly, if you’re making extensions or adding whatever get it legal. If you’re not sure ask your favorite think tank for help.

  • 21. amazed wrote:

    Is that the norm now in Flatbush/Midwood, to build a personal mikvah?

  • 24. Shocked in Australia wrote:

    Which "MOTHER" and especially from C.H. uses term like SCR***D??
    Is this how you want to educate your children?

    Shocked in Australia

  • 25. never fails to be amazed wrote:

    Why are they making a mikvah in a private house, anyway????
    Aren’t there mikvaos in Flatbush?

    I think this wacky family should move to CH…they’ll fit right in.

    hope they bentched Gomel…Hashem looks after us!

  • 26. CN wrote:

    To Mindy,
    The articles often come (at least in part) from a syndicated news service and are changed over time with several updates. Sometimes a reader posts a question after reading an earlier version of the article, and the unknown information is included in a later version of the article. Has nothing to do with one’s ability to read. Information that is now there may not have been when the article was first published.

  • 27. Response to Midwood Man wrote:

    ;) It will get out sooner or later. Spoke with one of the neighbors today, he said it might be stretching a bit but it is legit – no permit necessary for Mikvah….

  • 30. Response to Midwood Man wrote:

    ;) It will get out sooner or later. Spoke with one of the neighbors today, he said it might be stretching a bit but it is legit – no permit necessary for Mikvah….

  • 31. Dina wrote:

    By the way, I heard from a neighbor that lives on that block that the owners of that house did have a permit. The yentas who provided that information were just too camera-happy and jumped to yap to the media.

  • 32. Stop bashing people. wrote:

    Re: The question asked, "Were they Jews?" I think the question may have been referring to the contractors and no it doesn’t say anywhere in the article if they were or weren’t. It is still a valid question.

  • 34. abe wrote:

    NYC Department of Buildings
    Overview for Complaint #:3192963 = RESOLVED
    Complaint at: 1166 EAST 31 STREET BIN: 3208673 Borough: BROOKLYN ZIP: 11210

    Special District: N/A
    Assigned To: BROOKLYN BOROUGH OFFICE Priority: A


    Received: 06/06/2006 12:38 Block: 7630 Lot: 72 Community Board: 318

    Last Inspection: 06/06/2006 – – BY BADGE # 2226 VASIL PECANI BROOKLYN
    Disposition Entered By:
    DOB Violation #: 060606C1801VP


    Complaint Disposition History

    Disposition Disposition Inspection Date
    Date Code By

  • 35. anash wrote:

    TO: amazed
    they biuld the mikvah in the house so no one will see that they go

  • 36. fund raiser wrote:

    just think, if they would just donate that $10,000 – $15,000 that it costs (more?) to a community mikva…

  • 37. out of towner wrote:

    this is really crazy why cant the police just stop al this? where i live its sooo safe why cant all this just stopp i dont think im visiting any time soon!

  • 38. take a chill wrote:

    why are you saying they are screwed? just because they are naive it doesnt mean they are "screwed"

  • 39. Mikhoel wrote:

    I understand that people are concerned that no Jews were hurt–but how come nobody here seems to have expressed any sympathy or concern for the family of the non-Jewish worker who was killed, or the people who were injured?! Maybe this tragedy may have been avoided if necessary precautions were taken. Maybe this family should have done some oversight. Why did they need their own personal mikva anyway? I am sure they feel sick about what happened–but what about the justice and restitution for their workers? Nobody here seems to care about that–the prevailing attitude seems to be only–"*whew* baruch hashem no yidden were hurt!"


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