No evidence MA gas blasts were intentional, investigator says

The house owned by Lawrence Police Officer Ivan Soto

Modal Trigger The house owned by Lawrence Police Officer Ivan Soto. AP

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency Friday in three towns north of Boston rocked by a string of deadly gas explosions, and he put another utility company in charge of restoration efforts.

Utility workers accessed 8,600 meters, turned them off and cleared each home of gas in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover as of 6:30 a.m. Sunday, the governor said. Electricity was restored to almost all homes and businesses, but gas service will remain shut off while officials continue investigating what caused Thursday's explosions and fires. Thousands were evacuated, and 18,000 people lost power at one point.

An investigation into what caused the fires and blasts remains underway, but on Saturday, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said that a pipeline controller in Columbus, Ohio, noticed a pressure increase in a pipeline in Lawrence.

Michael Mansfield, the Andover fire chief, said: "I have never seen anything like this".

Utility Peoples Gas Light & Coke Co. placed the blame on the failure of a piece of equipment that lowers the pressure of gas from distribution lines so that it can be used in homes, the Tribune said. Leonel Rondon, 18, and two of his friends were in the auto when the debris struck, his family told CNN affiliate WHDH. He died at a hospital, authorities said.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera was also present. The integrity management system of the pipeline operator Columbia Gas. The governor and Columbia Gas of MA president Steve Bryant have quibbled over the utility's level of preparedness.

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"We're very interested to understand the operations of Columbia Gas", he said.

He said investigators will be working to develop a timeline going back at least three weeks, including reviewing any reports of gas odors reported by residents in the affected communities of Lawrence, North Andover and Andover.

"People have a right to know", Markey told reporters.

Jeff Hall, spokesman for the Red Cross, said Friday there were nearly 400 people shelters after the Thursday night explosions and fires.

Officials, meanwhile, are also warning about donations scammers.

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