As investigators work to pinpoint the cause of a series of dramatic natural gas explosions that killed a teenager who had just gotten his driver's license and was sitting in his car, injured at least 25 others and left dozens of homes in smoldering ruins, stories are emerging of unsung heroes in the chaos.
Rosemary Smedile of North Andover was one of several victims of Thursday’s massive gas main incident that sparked fires throughout the Merrimack Valley.
“I was gone 20 minutes and there was nothing wrong when I left and it just – it was that fast,” said Smedile said.
“He came running in the house, ‘help, help, Rosemary’s house is on fire!’” neighbor Christine Cohne said.
Cohne’s son James and his friend Jack Ventre – both just 11 years old – spotted the fire.
Jack Ventre said, “We just noticed a bunch of smoke and we smelled like – it didn’t really smell like fire, it smelled like gas – which it was – and then me and him ran over to his house and he went inside to tell his parents and then I called 9-1-1.”
James Cohne added, “It was really scary just knowing that one of our neighbor’s houses was on fire.”
Smedile, who’s a selectwoman in town, says thanks to her two young neighbors, she was able to alert the police chief who ran into the burning home to save her dog.
“I think that if those young boys did not have the foresight and the wisdom to know something’s wrong, it would probably be a total loss,” Smedile said.
In fact, people throughout North Andover recounted similar small acts of heroism that may have made a huge difference in saving both property and lives.
Kara Kaufman of North Andover said, “Mike went around literally running around the neighborhood with a wrench to shut off everybody’s main.”
Richard Kaufman of North Andover said, “You really appreciate what the fire department and the police do when you see an event like this.”