Gas Explosions and Fires in Merrimack Valley Kill One And Cause Mass Evacuations

Gas explosions by the dozen ripped through homes in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover on Thursday night, setting some houses ablaze and leveling others. The disaster killed one young man and injured nearly two dozen other people, leaving many in need of a lawyer like Dan Doyle, a catastrophic injury lawyer in Philadelphia.

The Incident

Police officers and fire crews responded to as many as 70 fires and gas explosions in Merrimack Valley, beginning around 5 p.m. Some first responders came from as far away as Hampton, New Hampshire, and Boston. The air was thick with smoke, causing people to breathe through masks as they evacuated their homes.

The explosions were caused by overpressurized distribution lines that fed between 8,100 to 8,500 gas meters. Power was quickly shut down so safety crews could do inspections and depressurize the lines, but 24 hours later, around 18,000 National Grid electrical customers are still without power.

During the explosions, one 18-year-old man was killed as he sat in his car when a chimney from an exploding home landed on top of him. Dozens more people rushed to the hospital to be treated for injuries related to the disaster and thousands more were evacuated.


Governor Charlie Baker has put Eversource in charge of recovery efforts after losing faith in Columbia Gas after they failed to follow through. According to the Governor, the gas company had no plan in place for a catastrophe of this magnitude and was slow to respond. Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera stated that he heard nothing from Columbia Gas after being asked to evacuate everyone in the area and shut off the power.

Officials say that as of Friday morning, hundreds of gas technicians and public safety workers were in, or on their way, to inspect each home to ensure safe conditions before allowing the thousands of evacuees back into the area. This could take some time as there were 8,600 affected customers. Each gas meter must be shut off before a safety inspection can be conducted.

Who Is at Fault

The investigation of the incident is being focused on the gas distribution system and the origin of the excess pressure, but no full answers will come out until the joint investigation by state, federal, and local agencies has been completed.

Apparently, extra pressure flooded into gas pipelines which then flooded every home across the system with flammable gas. When that gas met an electric spark from a light switch, a hot-water heater, or a pilot light on a stove, it became ignited and caused the explosions that led to widespread fires.

According to Robert J. Chipkevich, a retired National Transportation Safety Board official, overpressurization can be caused by a mechanical failure on a control valve or by human error. Those looking to sue with the help of a lawyer, like a wrongful death attorney in Philadelphia, may have cause to seek compensation from the gas company, but also perhaps from an individual worker who caused the error. Investigators will have more answers after working methodically to trace the issue back to its source.

This was the biggest gas disaster in the United States since the year 2010, when a gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California, killed eight people and damaged dozens of houses. Lawrence residents no longer feel safe in their own homes, wondering how to trust the gas company going forward after so many suffered serious injuries.

If you’ve been seriously injured or had a loved one die suddenly due to someone else’s negligence, the Dan Doyle Law Group can help. Contact a catastrophic injury attorney in Philadelphia to discuss your case and work towards obtaining compensation for your physical and emotional injuries, as well as lost wages. We’re here to help you get your life back.