ELMHURST, Queens – One person was found dead following an explosion at a Queens apartment building Tuesday morning, according to authorities, in what sources said may have been a fire set to cover up a homicide in the building.
Firefighters responded around 10:25 a.m. to a report of an explosion at a six-story residential building located at 73-01 41st Ave. in Elmhurst, according to the FDNY.
Upon arrival, first responders discovered there had been an explosion in the penthouse above the sixth floor, with heavy damage to the apartment and an outside wall, fire officials said.
“We have a collapse; it is a very unstable situation right now,” FDNY Chief Thomas Currao said.
Video from Citizen App showed large flames shooting from the top floor of the building, as well as bricks falling from the walls.
The building and two additional buildings behind where the fire was located were evacuated, according to police and fire officials.
Authorities said there was one civilian death. The victim’s identity was not immediately released.
Law enforcement sources later told PIX11 a 26-year-old man was found dead in the building’s penthouse with multiple stab wounds.
Police later identified the deceased as Anesti Bulgaretsi, 26, a resident of the building.
NYPD detectives, as well as homicide, arson and explosion officials, were said to be investigating, the sources said.
The cause of the explosion was not known Tuesday afternoon.
Four firefighters also sustained minor injuries and were sent to local hospitals, an FDNY official said.
The Department of Buildings sent inspectors to the scene to conduct a structural stability inspection.
DOB investigators said there was severe fire damage to the penthouse level of the building. Their investigation into the stability of the penthouse level remained ongoing Tuesday afternoon.
The Red Cross told PIX11 News Tuesday that 44 people were displaced by the explosion.
Submit tips to police by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), visiting crimestoppers.nypdonline.org, downloading the NYPD Crime Stoppers mobile app, or texting 274637 (CRIMES) then entering TIP577. Spanish-speaking callers are asked to dial 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).