QUEENS — An ailing former Marine who loved science was killed Monday night after a homemade device exploded in his Kew Gardens apartment Monday night, authorities said.
Alfred Mayo, 70, detonated the device while sitting in the kitchen of his second floor apartment at 82-72 Austin St., above Austin's Ale House, just after 6:30 p.m., according to authorities and friends.
"It was horrible," said Lia Restrepo, 63, Mayo's girlfriend of 17 years, who was in the apartment when the explosion happened.
The nature of the device was not immediately clear. It was also not clear if the detonation was accidental.
Mayo suffered from throat cancer and in June last year underwent surgery, Restrepo said. "He was in so much pain since then, he couldn't eat, he couldn't swollow," she said.
She said Mayo, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident about 50 years ago, was passionate about alternate sources of energy and was constantly working on projects in their kitchen, including building batteries for electric cars.
His friend Bill Corrado said that Mayo, who lived in the apartment for about 30 years, would talk to him about "science and the next evolution of the car."
He also said that Mayo liked "to help everybody in the neighborhood" with their cars and electronic devices. "And he loved it, he didn’t care if he charged anything or not," Corrado said. "He was a very giving guy."
On Monday, Restrepo said, Mayo, who didn't smoke, asked her to buy him a lighter. "He said he needed it for a project he worked on," she said.
Restrepo said Mayo seemed depressed on Monday but nothing indicated that he was going take his life, she said. "I think it was an accident," she said. "We were happy. He was very sweet, we never fought. He treated me like a queen."
She also said Mayo had an appointment for a CT scan of his head on Tuesday.
The explosion did not damage the building, authorities said, but the police closed off the area for a couple of hours and businesses located in the building had to close for the rest of the evening.
"We couldn't get back to our apartment until 9:30 p.m." said Sweta Krishnaswamy, who lives in the same building.
Mark Boccia, the owner of Austin's Ale House, said in a statement that he was "saddened as a result of the terrible occurrence."
"Our condolences go out to the family of our neighbor and good friend, Al Mayo, during this difficult time," he said.
Austin's Ale House did not experience any damages as a result of the explosion, Boccia said.