Columbia Gas Settles With Family of Teen Killed in Merrimack Valley Explosion

Gov. Charlie Baker (third from left) joined local leaders from Andover, Lawrence and North Andover during a press conference in the wake of the September 2018 explosions and fires across the Merrimack Valley. (Jay Saulnier photograph for WHAV News)

Columbia Gas has settled with the family of the 18-year-old Lawrence teen killed in the September 2018 Merrimack Valley gas-related fire disaster, the company told WHAV in a statement. Spokesman Dean Lieberman said details of the agreement are confidential but confirms the terms were reached after a voluntary mediation between parties.

As WHAV previously reported, Leonel Rondon, of 16 Chestnut St, Lawrence, was killed Sept. 13 while sitting inside a car near 35 Chickering Road in that city when a chimney fell onto the car after a house explosion. That explosion—with wide-ranging impacts felt across Lawrence, Andover and North Andover—was the result of an over-pressurized Columbia Gas line in what some city officials called an “Armageddon-like” scenario that left 21 injured, including firefighters.

“We recognize the pain that remains and understand that nothing we can ever say or do will bring Leonel back to his loved ones or erase that pain. Since this tragic event, we have always wanted to do the right thing for the Rondon family and all of those affected, and we are pleased to have reached this settlement,” NiSource CEO Joe Hamrock told WHAV after the settlement was reached.

Columbia Gas also intends to establish a scholarship fund in Rondon’s memory, independent of the settlement.

In May, Columbia Gas and NiSource said it would pay Lawrence, Andover and North Andover an $80 million settlement, with $57 million earmarked for road repairs, $10 million for expense reimbursement and $12.8 million for claims and losses incurred by the municipalities.

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