LAWRENCE, Mass. – Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of the lone victim of last week’s dramatic series of natural gas explosions and fires north of Boston on Wednesday.
Some 300 people came out to St. Mary the Assumption Church in Lawrence to remember 18-year-old Leonel Rondon, the Eagle-Tribune reported.
Family members and friends cried and hugged each other tightly as they wore white shirts bearing the words “RIP Leonel” and “It’s Leo’s world, we’re just living in it,” the Boston Globe reported.
Rev. John Dello Russo remembered Rondon, who was a local musician who went by the name DJ Blaze, as a teen with a bright future.
Through the devastation and tragedy that rocked Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, he said, the best of humanity emerged.
“Last Thursday afternoon, all hell broke loose in our city,” Dello Russo said. “But in the midst of it, people helped one another out. In ourselves we found power, compassion, love.”
In her eulogy, Leomary Colon recalled how her cousin had tried to cheer her up at a homecoming dance. He told her, “You got to live it until it’s gone.”
She said she’d miss his advice and support. “He took care of everyone,” Colon said. “You knew you were in good hands with him.”
The high school junior died Sept. 13 after the chimney of an exploding house crashed into his car and crushed him. Rondon had just received his driver’s license hours earlier.
About 25 other people were injured in the three Merrimack Valley communities. Dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed and thousands of residents were forced to evacuate.
Nearly 9,000 homes and businesses may be without gas for weeks as investigators continue to probe what set off the explosions.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is heading the inquiry, has said investigators are partly focused on pressure sensors that were connected to a Columbia Gas pipeline being taken out of service shortly before the blasts.
The gas company, meanwhile, said Wednesday it would withdraw a $33 million rate increase that had been scheduled to take effect in November for its more than 320,000 Massachusetts gas customers.
The rate hike had been approved prior to the explosions, but Columbia Gas of Massachusetts president Steve Bryant said in a statement that the company is instead focused on recovery efforts and “re-establishing trust.”
U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey sent a letter to Columbia Gas on Wednesday saying the company needs to “immediately commit whatever financial resources are necessary to ensure that every effected resident in this area has the resources they need to rebuild their lives now and is made economically whole.”
The Massachusetts Democrats said after the San Bruno gas explosion in 2010, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company made up to $100 million available for recovery and community rebuilding. That explosion killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes
Columbia Gas said Tuesday that it’s donating $10 million to an emergency relief fund.
Also Wednesday, Democratic Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo called on National Grid, another utility in the state, to end its lockout of workers because of stalled contract negotiations and resume negotiations, pointing to the gas explosions and the coming of cold weather.
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