The family of an 18-year-old student who was killed in the Columbia Gas explosions that rocked three Massachusetts towns in September plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the utility company.
Leonel Rondon, a high school junior from Lawrence, Massachusetts, was sitting in his SUV with three other friends when the Columbia Gas explosions occurred, toppling the brick chimney of a friend’s house where Mr. Rondon’s car was parked. The heavy structure fatally injured Mr. Rondon, who had just gotten his driver’s license a few hours before the pipeline blasts erupted throughout the Merrimack Valley. He died in the hospital later that day.
Now, a lawyer for Mr. Rondon’s grieving family says that Columbia Gas was reckless in its management and operation and should be made to pay for the devastating loss the Rondon family is suffering. The lawyer told the press that the family “wants justice,” according to the Concord Monitor.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which continues to investigate the explosions, said in a preliminary report that Columbia Gas failed to take the proper measures when replacing old cast iron gas mains with new plastic ones. In its work order to crews replacing the pipeline, Columbia Gas failed to instruct them to deactivate the pressure sensors.
As a result, the system detected the loss of pressure and compensated by releasing more gas into the system than it could handle. According to the NTSB, the pressure in the pipeline swelled to 12 times its normal capacity, triggering blasts, explosions, and fires that consumed as many as 80 buildings.
The Columbia Gas explosions injured 12 people and displaced thousands in the towns of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.