A Lawrence teen is dead and at least 13 people, including a firefighter, are injured after emergency crews responded to what they believe is a series of gas explosions that have damaged multiple homes in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover Thursday evening, according to NBC Boston.
The Essex County DA identified the teen as 18-year-old Leonel Robson. He was pronounced dead at Massachusetts General Hospital around 8:30 p.m., less than four hours after the multiple explosions were reported. NBC Boston reports that the teen was inside a car near 35 Chickering Road in Lawrence when a chimney from a house explosion fell on the vehicle.
According to the Essex DA’s Office, all state offices in the communities affected by the gas explosions will be closed Friday, September 14.
Massachusets court leaders have decided to close all Lawrence, MA court locations on Friday, September 14 due to losses of power and other services in the area— Mass. Court Closings (@MACourtClosings) September 14, 2018
“Unless already notified, non-emergency executive branch employees who live or work in those communities should not report to their workplaces,” the DA stated.
Reports about the explosions came in a little before 5 p.m. Thursday. All Lawrence, Andover, North Andover residents who have Columbia Gas were urged to evacuate, especially if anyone smelled gas.
Power has been shut off in the areas affected by the explosion and Lawrence mayor asked all South Lawrence residents to evacuate their homes.
Off-ramps on I-495 from Exits 42 through 45 are all closed until further notice due to the emergency gas situation. Exit 41 off-ramps are closed as well. Also I-93 northbound and southbound Exit 45 off ramps to River Rd are closed. On-ramps remained open to allow evacuations, police say.
State Police Watch Center confirmed 70 separate addresses for fire and explosions Thursday night.
MSP Fusion Center has current updated tally of responses to fires/explosions/investigations of gas odor at 70. Spread over wide swath of south #Lawrence and northern part of #NorthAndover with several others across Merrimack River in north Lawrence. pic.twitter.com/a7kBYaWFrJ— Mass State Police (@MassStatePolice) September 13, 2018
Columbia Gas released a statement on the company’s website stating:
Columbia Gas crews are currently responding to reports of multiple fires in Lawrence. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by today’s incident. The first priority for our crews at the scene is to ensure the safety of our customers and the community by supporting first responders and completing safety checks on our system and in the surrounding area.
We appreciate the response of local emergency responders and their coordination with our teams. If a customer smells an odor of natural gas, they should leave the area immediately, move to a safe location and call 911 and our emergency number at 1-800-525-8222.
The company said customers who smell any odor of natural gas should do the following:
- Don’t turn off gas to your house or to any appliances.
- Don’t try to find the leak yourself or operate pipeline valves.
- Don’t light a match or candle, or operate anything that could cause a spark, including home phones or cell phones, lights, appliances, flashlights, power tools, etc.
- Don’t open the windows and doors in an attempt to ventilate.
State Police tweeted that troopers and local police were helping evacuate residents. State Police fire officials, detectives, crime scene personnel were at various scenes.
State Police said Andover Police evacuated residents to a senior center on 30 Whittier Court. North Andover Police also evacuated residents to a middle school on 495 Main Street.
Confirmed fires/explosions plotted on map by MSP Watch Center. As seen, incidents are across a wide swath of dozens of blocks across Lawrence and North Andover. pic.twitter.com/0GoLK0Q94q— Mass State Police (@MassStatePolice) September 13, 2018
Massachusetts State Police say troopers responded to the area to help secure them after “multiple suspected gas explosions.”
Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon told the Associated Press shortly after the explosions were reported that 20 to 25 homes are on fire in Lawrence. Solomon, who’s in Lawrence, says there were so many fires “you can’t even see the sky.”
Numerous evacuations of neighborhoods where there are gas odors are underway. Far too early to speculate on cause. Joint investigation will be conducted when situation is stabilized.— Mass State Police (@MassStatePolice) September 13, 2018
Residents in the affected towns of Lawrence/North Andover/Andover who have gas service from Columbia Gas should evacuate their homes immediately if they have not already done so. Gas lines are currently being depressurized by the company it will take some time.— Mass State Police (@MassStatePolice) September 13, 2018