Father dies from Flushing gas blast injuries

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Nearly three months after a gas explosion rocked Fairmont Hall in Flushing, the disaster claimed its first life.

Edgar Zaldumbide, who had been in a medically induced coma since the explosion tore through his apartment July 25, died of his injuries last week, authorities confirmed.

Zaldumbide was playing with his 2-year-old daughter, Melissa, shortly before 4:30 p.m. on the sunny July afternoon when a fireball suddenly ignited, destroying his apartment and a half dozen others at 147-25 Sanford Ave. He received second- and third-degree burns over 75 percent of his body, authorities said.

“This is incredibly tragic,” said City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), who has worked with families displaced by the blast. “Edgar was a hardworking man who was taking care of his wife and his little girl and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The hearts of everyone in the community go out to his widow and their daughter.”

His daughter survived with severe burns, which she is still receiving outpatient treatment for, neighbors said. His wife Yvonne, who is seven months pregnant with the couple’s second child, could not be reached for comment. 

The cause of the blast remains under investigation, according to the Fire Department. Fifteen others were injured in the blast, which has left several residents homeless and wanting answers.

“We’re just in limbo. Nobody has heard anything, not even an apology,” said Bellanira Sanchez, the building’s tenant association leader. “They say it’s still under investigation, but now someone is dead. We just want to get some answers.”

Sanchez said the Fairmont Hall tenants were hoping to organize a fund-raiser or tribute to Zaldumbide at a tenant meeting Wednesday.

“Everybody wants to do something for them. All of the tenants are very sad,” Sanchez said.

Zaldumbide’s death was the latest chapter in six months of hardships experienced by the building’s residents of the building.

The problems at Fairmont Hall began June 11, after a small kitchen fire in a second-floor apartment damaged gas lines in the building. Con Edison spokesman Chris Olert said gas and hot water were shut down at the building after the fire while repairs were made.

Residents were without hot water until June 24 and without gas until last week, according to Con Edison and city Department of Buildings records, leading a group of tenants to threaten a rent strike in early July until the repairs were made.

Though gas is slowly being restored to the building, several building residents have not had service since the June 18 fire. Some tenants of the building’s 90 apartments have stopped paying rent and retained the services of a law firm, Bernstein & Bernstein, to potentially seek damages for the building’s poor living conditions.

A phone number for David Pace, the Fairmont Hall business manager, has been disconnected.


Updated 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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