‘Emptiness, sadness, pain’: Gas disaster victim remembered 1 year after explosions

LAWRENCE, MASS. (WHDH) - A square dedication ceremony was held Friday in Lawrence on the one year anniversary of the Merrimack Valley gas disaster to honor an 18-year-old man who was killed when an explosion knocked a chimney onto the car he was sitting in.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker were among the speakers who were on hand to remember the life of Leonel Rondon.

On Sept. 13, 2018, a series of gas explosions rocked the area, leveling homes and killing Rondon.  The blasts were blamed on overpressurized Columbia Gas lines.

Rondon, who had just obtained his driver’s license, was crushed to death when his house on Chickering Road exploded. Two friends who were in his car suffered injuries.

Lucianny Rondon, Leonel’s sister, told reporters after the ceremony that her family is still devastated by the tragedy.

“Speaking on behalf of myself and my family, there are no words to describe how we are feeling today,” she said. “We feel this emptiness, this sadness, this pain that is killing us inside. We are trying to remember the happy thoughts we have on him.”

Columbia Gas announced it will again be going to more than 700 homes and businesses to check on gas lines that were abandoned during the recovery process last September for fear they do not meet state requirements.

Columbia Gas released a statement that reads in part, “We recognize that our customers have been through a difficult year as we conducted the recovery and restoration work in these communities. We understand that additional work may frustrate them, and we apologize. We are conducting these compliance checks out of an abundance of caution.”

Gas service will not be disrupted.

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