LAWRENCE (CBS) — The young man who was killed in Thursday’s Merrimack Valley gas explosions had just gotten his driver’s license and was visiting a friend when a chimney collapsed and crushed his SUV. Leonel Rondon was inside his car in the driveway of a home on Chickering Road in Lawrence when the house was blown apart by a gas explosion.
The force of the blast split the brick chimney in two, launching the upper half onto the SUV. Rondon was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston where he was pronounced dead. He was just 18 years old.
“He was a good kid, he’ll be remembered as a D.J., always in school, just a kid from the hood like any other kid staying out of trouble,” said one of Rondon’s friends.
Lawrence Public Schools said the community was “deeply saddened” by Rondon’s death.
“A Lawrence Public Schools student throughout his life, Leo attended the Oliver School, UP Oliver Academy, Lawrence High School and most recently Phoenix, remaining enrolled at Phoenix Charter Lawrence Academy when it converted from a district to charter school for 2018-19,” the department said in a statement Friday afternoon.
“Staff and students knew him as an outgoing, light-hearted, hands-on learner who particularly loved science and excelled in biology and math. He had just begun his junior year at Phoenix after a successful 2017-18, and teachers recall his drive to graduate as a model to classmates. He will be greatly missed both in school and at home, and his family, friends and loved ones are in the thoughts of everyone throughout the Phoenix network and Lawrence Public Schools. “
Grief counseling is being provided at Phoenix for the next few days.
Rondon’s friend said there was a group of friends in the vehicle with him. The same moment a woman went inside to make dinner, the explosion occurred.
Neighbors told WBZ-TV a woman from the same house was rescued by police.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Rondon’s family.
According to MEMA Director Kurt Schwartz, at least 25 people were treated for injuries, which ranged from smoke inhalation to “traumatic blast injuries.”
The explosions and fires were caused by an over-pressurized gas main affecting customers in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover.