NEW YORK -- A four-story building on Manhattan's Upper East Side collapsed into a pile of rubble yesterday after an explosion left an upscale block littered with bricks, broken glass, and splintered wood.
Authorities said the blast was caused by gas, and they were investigating whether it was the result of a suicide attempt by the building's owner, a doctor who was going through a bitter divorce. The doctor, Nicholas Bartha, 66, and a passerby were severely hurt; at least 13 others had minor injuries.
Shortly before the blast, Bartha sent an e-mail to his wife in which he contemplated suicide, a police official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
``When you read this . . . your life will change forever," the e-mail read in part. ``You deserve it. You will be transformed from gold digger to ash and rubbish digger. . . ."
The injured included five civilians and 10 firefighters. Bartha was pulled from the rubble after talking with authorities from his phone while buried in the wreckage, Fire Chief Nicholas Scoppetta said.
In a petition filed this year, Cordula Bartha asked that deputies remove Nicholas Bartha from the residence. ``I have no doubt that [he] will ensconce himself in the marital residence . . . He has said many times that he intends to `die in my house.' "
Yaakov Kermaier, 36, a resident in a building next door, said he was outside when he heard ``a deafening boom. I saw the whole building explode in front of me.
``Everybody started running, nobody knew what was coming next," he said. His nanny and newborn escaped from their next-door apartment unharmed.
The building housed two doctors' offices.