Archive for Monday, July 17, 2006

Doctor suspected in building collapse dies

July 17, 2006

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— The doctor suspected of blowing up his town house rather than allowing his ex-wife to benefit from its sale has died, nearly a week after suffering critical injuries in the blast, a hospital spokeswoman said Sunday.

Dr. Nicholas Bartha, 66, died late Saturday, said Mary Halston, an administrator at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Police had been unable to speak to Bartha about the July 10 explosion because he was in a medically induced coma. Authorities have said they were investigating whether he might have caused it rather than sell the town house as part of a divorce judgment favoring his ex-wife.

Bartha's ex-wife, Cordula Bartha, told police she received an e-mail from him shortly before the explosion warning that she would be "transformed from gold digger to ash and rubbish digger."

"I always told you I will leave the house only if I am dead," the e-mail said.

Investigators have confirmed that someone tampered with a gas line leading into the home's basement, allowing vapors to flow for hours until it caused the building to blow up.

The physician, who lived and worked in the four-story landmark on Manhattan's upscale Upper East Side, was the lone occupant during the blast. It leveled the building and left the block covered in bricks, glass and splintered wood. At least 14 other people were injured, including 10 firefighters.

Rescuers pulled the doctor from the rubble after hearing his calls.

The town house and land were worth nearly $6.4 million, according to the city's finance department. The property was to be sold at auction in October to pay a $4 million judgment against Bartha, though his ex-wife had predicted he wouldn't leave without a fight.

"He has said many times that he intends to 'die in my house,"' Cordula Bartha said in a petition filed last year.

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