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Leonel Rondon: Friends of teenager killed in Boston gas explosion 'heartbroken' at his death

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 14/09/2018 Sophie Williams

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Friends of a Boston teenager killed after a chimney from an exploding house plummeted onto his car say they are "heartbroken" at his death.

Leonel Rondon, 18, died on Thursday after a series of gas explosions rocked Boston's suburbs, destroying over 60 homes.

a person posing for the camera © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited His friends said he "always had a big smile on his face."

Shantel Polanco Baez said: “Heaven gained a beautiful angel. Just called me last night to check up on me…breaks my heart I’m in tears.”

bostonfire1409a.jpg © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited bostonfire1409a.jpg
Firefighters battle a large structure fire in Lawrence, Mass, a suburb of Boston (AP)

One of his friends Randy Flow said that Mr Rondon had recently passed his driving test.

Amanda Diaz wrote: “RIP! Remember our little talks and that smirk. My condolences to your family.”

The explosions set fire to between 60 and 80 homes and businesses in the Boston suburbs.

a group of people standing in a room: boston1409b.jpg © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited boston1409b.jpg
Residents flee their homes wearing protective gas masks (AP)

Twelve people have been injured including one firefighter. They are mainly being treated for burns and smoke inhalation.

Police were seen driving up and down streets telling residents to evacuate their homes immediately.

Investigators believe the fires have been caused by "over-pressurisation of a gas main" belonging to Columbia Gas Lines.

Andover Fire Rescue Chief Michael Mansfield described the chaos as "overwhelming" and said it resembled "Armageddon."

"I have been in the fire service for almost 39 years and I have never seen anything like this in my entire career," he said.

"There were billows of smoke coming from Lawrence behind me. I could see pillars of smoke in front of me from the town of Andover."

a close up of a tree: boston-fires-1.jpg © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited boston-fires-1.jpg

Witnesses said the explosions began at about 4.30pm in the US (8.30pm UK time).

The company that owns Columbia Gas says its crews are performing safety checks.

A statement from Indiana-based NiSource says its "thoughts are with everyone affected by today's incident" and that it appreciates the response from local emergency crews.

State and local officials said at a news conference minutes earlier that they had still not heard from Columbia Gas following the fires in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. Gov. Charlie Baker later clarified that he thought the company's response was "adequate." 

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