Five people were arrested Thursday — four on manslaughter charges — in connection with a devastating gas explosion in the East Village nearly a year ago that killed two people and reduced three buildings to rubble. Tara Lynn Wagner has the story.

Within hours of the deadly East Village explosion, officials blamed an illegal gas hookup.

But as they announced the arrest of five people Thursday, officials said the ultimate cause was greed by a landlord wanting to quickly rent renovated apartments fetching $6,000 a month.

"Financial incentives for property owners, contractors, and managers to take shortcuts has never been stronger," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. "When you tinker around with the gas system, the electrical hookups, as happened here, you have in effect weaponized the building.

"When greed guides decisions and respect for human life doesn't, this is the result," Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

Authorities say Maria Hrynenko, the building's owner, and her son Michael wouldn't wait for Con Edison to approve gas service to their apartments at 121 Second Avenue, so rubber hoses were used to connect to the gas line serving a sushi restaurant on the ground floor.

"Flex hosing can be dangerous," Vance said. "It is prone to disconnect, to break or to leak, so it is illegal."

Con Edison shut that connection last summer, but authorities say another illegal connection was made to the building the Hrynenkos owned next door.

That concealed hookup was shut when Con Ed returned last March 26, but Con Ed again refused to approve legal gas service.

Officials said Michael Hrynenko and his contractor Dilber Kukic turned the illegal connection back on, but failed to close valves that were open for Con Ed's inspection. A worker in the sushi restaurant soon smelled gas.

"Kukic and Michael Hyrnenko went down to the basement, they smelled the gas, and then they sprinted out of the building," Vance said.

No warning to anyone. The blast occurred minutes later, killing two people in the restaurant.

The Hrynenkos, Kukic, and their unlicensed plumber Jerry Ioannidis were arraigned on involuntary manslaughter and other charges.

The fifth defendant Andrew Trombettas was charged with allowing Ioannidis to use his plumbing license.

In addition to warning landlords not to cut corners, officials urged New Yorkers to call 911 if they smell gas.