Lawrence teen killed, others injured after multiple gas explosions in Merrimack Valley


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. 

“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.

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.

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.”

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