THE BRONX — Two men charged in the explosion of a marijuana grow house that killed an FDNY battalion chief last year are now facing up to 25 years in prison after they were indicted on charges of second-degree manslaughter, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Garivaldi Castillo, 32, and Julio Salcedo, 34, had previously been charged with assault and criminal possession of marijuana after the second floor of 304 W. 234th St. exploded on the morning of Sept. 27, causing part of the roof to fatally strike Michael Fahy.
“Chief Fahy responded to a situation that was a catastrophe waiting to happen. These defendants allegedly were growing marijuana, and had sealed the windows of the building, trapping leaking gas,” Bronx DA Darcel Clark said in a statement.
“Chief Fahy ordered residents out of the building — including one of the defendants — and saved their lives. When the gas exploded, it blew off the slate roof and a section of it struck and killed him.”
Firefighters had responded to the two-story building after reports of a possible gas leak. Once inside they found numerous marijuana plants, heaters, fertilizer and tanks of helium, which prosecutors said were maintained by Castillo and Salcedo.
But lawyers for both defendants said prosecutors could not link the death of Fahy to the men, since a gas pipe tested by the FBI showed it had not been tampered with and they were therefore not responsible for the leak.
Salcedo's lawyer, Dawn Florio, said her client stayed in the building only occasionally when he wasn't at his girlfriend's place in New Jersey and had to wake up early for his job at an auto dealership where he sold cars.
Florio added that they were still waiting for prosecutors to present them with the full evidence collected in the case and that she would conduct her own investigation into Con Edison's maintenance of gas lines at the address.
Both men pleaded not guilty to the new indictment Tuesday and remained held on bail, which was increased by $250,000, Florio added.
They are due back in court on Sept. 5.