Family Plans to File Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Columbia Gas

The family of 57-year-old Kenneth DeVeau say he suffered cardiac arrest then slipped into a coma after the stress he experienced from the Merrimack Valley evacuations

The family of a North Andover man who died after his cardiac arrest led to a coma plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Columbia Gas.

Attorney Marc Breakstone says 57-year-old Kenneth DeVeau went under cardiac arrest because of the stress caused by the Merrimack Valley evacuations.

Andover, North Andover and Lawrence were struck by a series of explosions and fires on Sept. 13 after miles of pipelines experienced an overpressurization issue. Federal prosecutors have since opened a criminal investigation into the explosions.

According to Breakstone, DeVeau was taken to an evacuation center the night of the explosions where he went into cardiac arrest. He was then taken to Lawrence General Hospital, where he slipped into a coma and failed to regain consciousness.

Breakstone said his sister saw DeVeau on TV right after the incident.

"As she’s watching, she sees her brother rolling on a gurney into the evacuation center and is alarmed," said Breakstone.

His family says DeVeau died almost two weeks later on Sept. 26.

DeVeau reportedly had limited mobility due to a neurological condition as well as a number of other health complications. Breakstone said DeVeau was unable to evacuate himself and needed to activate a medical alert bracelet in order to do so.

Now, his family is seeking punitive damages from the man’s wrongful death and gross negligence.

"Columbia Gas’s gross negligence set into motion the events that led to his heart attack and death," said Breakstone.

Columbia Gas released a statement to NBC10 Boston saying, "Our hearts go out to the family of Kenneth DeVeau. We're not going to comment on potential or pending litigation."

At least three other lawsuits have been announced in connection with the explosions. An attorney for the family of 18-year-old Leonel Rondon, who was killed when he was crushed by a chimney that landed on the SUV he was inside of, announced their intentions to file a lawsuit on Oct. 25, while the family whose house exploded announced their lawsuit on Sept. 27. A class action lawsuit against Columbia Gas was filed days after the disaster.

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