NYC Doctor Suspected in Building Collapse Dies

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 after the July 10 explosion because of his condition, but 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.

Click here to read Bartha's e-mail.

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, broken glass and splintered wood. At least 14 other people were injured, including 10 firefighters, authorities said.

Rescuers pulled the doctor from the rubble after hearing his calls. He was in critical condition at the Weill Cornell campus of New York Presbyterian Hospital until he died.

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.

The doctor was responsible for other implied threats against his ex-wife, according to court records.

A 2005 appellate court opinion said the doctor had "intentionally traumatized" Cordula Bartha, a Jew who was born in Nazi-occupied Holland, by posting "swastika-adorned articles and notes" around their home. The opinion also said Bartha had "ignored her need for support and assistance while she was undergoing surgery and treatment for breast cancer."

The man's next-door neighbors had sued him Friday, claiming the explosion damaged their cooperative apartment and forced them to leave it. They also named the Consolidated Edison utility as a defendant, accusing it of failing to have proper safety devices.

Con Ed has said it does not comment on pending litigation.