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Two plead guilty to manslaughter in deadly 2016 explosion

The Kingsbridge incident cost the life of FDNY battalion chief Michael Fahy

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Two men have pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in a gas explosion in 2016 that killed fire department battalion chief Michael Fahy.

Garivaldi Castillo, 32, of 465 W. 166th St., in Washington Heights, and Julio Salcedo, 34, of 3450 Kingsbridge Ave., entered those pleas Friday to charges that also included first-degree criminal possession of marijuana. They’ll be sentenced Aug. 17.

They took responsibility for the conditions that led to an explosion at a house on the corner of Tibbett Avenue and West 234th Street in September 2016, which not only killed Fahy, but injured 12 other firefighters. The house, prosecutors said, had been used to grow marijuana.

Fahy responded to a call about a gas smell on the morning of Sept. 27, ordering the residents — including one of the defendants — to leave, according to a release. When the gas exploded, it blew off the building’s slate roof, a section of which struck and killed Fahy.

A 17-year veteran of the force, Fahy was directing the investigation of the suspected gas leak.

“This is an extremely rare instance where someone is being held criminally responsible for conditions that caused the death of a firefighter in the line of duty,” said Bronx district attorney Darcel Clark.

As part of a plea agreement, Castillo is expected to receive between two and six years in prison for the manslaughter charge, and five years on the marijuana charge —both to run concurrently. Salcedo is expected to get between one and three years for manslaughter, and four for marijuana.

The house at 300 W. 234th St., contained numerous marijuana plants as well as heaters and fertilizer, allegedly maintained by Castillo and Salcedo. Foil panels covered the two-story building’s second-floor windows, preventing ventilation, trapping the leaking gas.

Fahy “spent the last moments of his life of public service saving others,” Clark said. “These defendants today have pleased guilty to constructing a marijuana grow house, in which they sealed the windows of the second floor, prohibiting the ventilation of leaking gas, recklessly causing the death of chief Fahy.”

Fahy, 44, was a father of three young children, and had followed his own father, Thomas Fahy, into the department. He steadily climbed its ranks, according to published reports, while making a home with his wife and kids in Yonkers.

“It’s not just a loss,” fire commissioner Daniel Nigro told The Riverdale Press at the time. “It’s a terrible loss for the family, for the Fahy family. It’s a loss for the fire department family.”