Two Sentenced in 2016 Explosion that Claimed Life of FDNY Chief

by JOE LIGGIO, Asst. News Editor

Almost two years after an explosion tore through a quiet morning near south campus, two men charged in the case have been sentenced, according to the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office.

Gaviraldi Castillo, 33, and Julio Salcedo, 36, both pled guilty to second-degree manslaughter and first-degree criminal possession of marijuana charges in July, and were sentenced this past Friday in Bronx Supreme Court. Castillo faces up to six years in prison while Salcedo may serve up to four.

On September 27, 2016, firefighters responded to reports of a gas leak at 300 W. 234th St. in Kingsbridge, located on the corner of Tibbett Avenue and just a few blocks from Manhattan College’s south campus. Upon arrival they discovered that the residence was being used to grow marijuana.

“They found numerous marijuana plants as well as heaters and fertilizer, allegedly maintained by Castillo and Salcedo. The windows on the 2nd floor were covered by foil panels, preventing the 2nd floor from being ventilated of the leaking gas,” read part of a press release from the DA’s office.

At approximately 7:30 a.m., after firefighters had evacuated the building and the NYPD arrived on scene, awaiting Con Edison, the building exploded. The blast sent a section of the building’s slate roof airborne, a piece of which struck and mortally wounded FDNY Battalion Chief Michael Fahy, 44.

20 others, including NYPD and FDNY first responders, two Con Edison workers and two civilians were also injured in the explosion. 

Manhattan College Public Safety sent out an email later that day confirming that no students resided at the residence and that none were involved in the incident, about four blocks south of Leo Engineering Building and the Research and Learning Center.

According to the press release, this particular case is an “extremely rare instance in which someone is held criminally responsible for conditions that caused the death of a firefighter in the line of duty in New York City.”

At last Friday’s emotional day in court, both defendants expressed remorse for their crimes, but most of all for the loss of Fahy’s life.

“From the bottom of my heart, I did not want this to happen,” said Castillo through his interpreter in court.

Fahy, a 17-year veteran of the New York Fire Department, was a Yonkers resident and father of three. The NYU Law School graduate was assigned to Battalion 19 and posthumously promoted to the rank of deputy chief.

Minutes before the explosion that would claim his life, Fahy himself had actually instructed Salcedo to evacuate the residence.

“Chief Fahy is my hero,” 

wrote Salcedo in a statement read in-court by his attorney. “He saved my life. I promise the court, I promise the firefighters, I promise Chief Fahy’s family, I will be productive as soon as I get out.”

A vacant lot now occupies 300 W. 234th Street. A small makeshift memorial to Fahy put in place not long after the fateful day is still attached to the chain link fence that surrounds the property.