As lawmakers grilled gas company executives at the first U.S. Senate hearing on the Merrimack Valley explosions, those who have been effected filled the audience and listened closely.
Some of the most powerful testimony came from the family of Leonel Rondon, the only person killed during the tragedy. The 18-year-old was crushed by a chimney after a home exploded.
“Nobody should ever go through what my family has gone through,” Lucianny Rondon said.
The Rondon family is filing a wrongful death suit against Columbia Gas. Their lawyer said the family does not find the company’s response to be sincere and does not accept their apology. They decided to break their silence and speak publicly in order to advocate for the community.
“We will not let this loss be without meaning,” Rondon said. “The grief we feel is unbearable.”
Also in the audience were dozens of homeowners who are still waiting for gas to be restored. They criticized Columbia Gas for missing its deadline and said the company’s communication throughout the process has been poor.
Many of them called for Columbia Gas executives to step down and said they will not feel safe until another company is in charge.
“Right now we’re being left in the dark so they need to try harder and do better,” Yanet Bernabel of Lawrence said. “My 6-year-old son won’t go in my house because he’s scared it’s going to blow up.”