'Grief We Feel Is Unbearable': Family of Teen Killed During Merrimack Valley Gas Explosions Testifies at Senate Hearing - NECN

'Grief We Feel Is Unbearable': Family of Teen Killed During Merrimack Valley Gas Explosions Testifies at Senate Hearing

'We will not let this loss be without meaning,' said Lucianny Rondon, the sister of 18-year-old Leonel Rondon who was killed during the tragedy



    Columbia Gas, NiSource Grilled at Senate Hearing

    The six House and Senate members from Massachusetts and New Hampshire held a hearing at a packed middle school gymnasium in Lawrence, taking aim at the corporate culture at Columbia Gas of Massachusetts and its parent company, Indiana-based NiSource. They painted a picture of a corporation that cut corners and lacked the internal procedures to prevent, let alone respond to, the Sept. 13 disaster that killed one person, injured dozens more, damaged more than 100 homes and left thousands without heat or hot water in the Merrimack Valley communities of Lawrence, North Andover and Andover.

    (Published Monday, Nov. 26, 2018)

    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.”

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