BOSTON (CBS) – The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is launching an investigation into a series of gas explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley.
‘It Looked Like Armageddon’: 1 Dead After Gas Explosions, Fires
Emergency crews responded to between 60-80 fires and three explosions within a short time frame after gas issues were reported in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. There were 38 fires in Andover alone and at the peak of the incident, 18 fires were burning at the same time.
In Lawrence, a man was killed when a home exploded on Chickering Road. The Essex District Attorney says 18-year-old Leonel Rondon was inside a car in the driveway of the home when a chimney fell on it. Rondon was pronounced dead at Mass General Hospital.
During a Friday press conference at Reagan National Airport, Chairman Robert Sumwalt said that while the NTSB normally investigates incidents such as crashes, it is in charge of this situation because pipelines are a “mode of transportation” for natural gas.
“Our mission is to find out what happened so we can learn from it and keep it from happening again,” said Sumwalt. “We are conducting a safety investigation. We are not there to point fingers and lay blame.”
Merrimack Valley Explosions: What We Know
An NTSB “Go Team” is expected to arrive in the area around noon. The team’s first task will be to simply get the lay of the land and meet with the incident commander.
The investigation will include a look at the pipeline design, maintenance or upgrades that have been completed, the integrity management system, and the system safety program.
Sumwalt said the NTSB will not be the agency responsible for determining when it is safe for residents to return to their homes.
“This is indeed a tragedy that’s impacted hundreds, if not thousands of people,” he said.