‘I will never have my brother back’: Family of teen killed in Merrimack Valley gas disaster gives statement at Senate committee hearing

Leonel Rondon, 18, died on Sept. 13 after the chimney of an exploding house fell onto the car he was in, crushing him.

As her mother Rosaly looks on, Lucianny Rondon, sister of Leonel Rondon, the young man killed in the Sept. 13, 2018, Merrimack Valley gas explosions, wipes away a tear while making a statement during a hearing on gas pipeline safety in the Merrimack Valley Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in Lawrence, Mass. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
As her mother Rosaly looks on, Lucianny Rondon, sister of Leonel Rondon, wipes away a tear while reading a statement in Lawrence. –Winslow Townson / AP

Family members of the 18-year-old who was killed in September’s Merrimack Valley gas disaster spoke of their hope that his death would not be for nothing at a U.S. Senate committee hearing on Monday morning.

Lucianny Rondon read a statement at the beginning of the hearing convened in Lawrence by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to review the response to the Sept. 13 explosions that killed her brother, Leonel Rondon, and injured dozens of others.

Leonel Rondon. —Facebook

“We will not let this loss be without meaning,” she told the members of congress and the audience gathered in the  South Lawrence East Middle School gymnasium. “The grief we feel is unbearable, but we know Leonel would want us to stay strong. We will stand with the community on his behalf.”   

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Rondon spoke of her 18-year-old brother’s  “warm heart” and how he helped those in their Lawrence neighborhood, carrying groceries and shoveling snow for older residents.

“This senseless tragedy is the beginning of many things that my family and I will never do with Leonel again,” Rondon said. “My mother will never make him his favorite meal of shrimp and tostones again. My daughter Rihanny will never dance with her Uncle Leonel to the music he created just for her. Our little brother Leonardi will never go to the movies with Leonel again.”

The teen, who was celebrating getting his driver’s license the day he was killed, will never be forgotten, she said.

“We will not have the joy of seeing the wonderful man we know he would have become. I stand in front of you in his honor,” Rondon said. “I will never have my brother back. But we hope there will be justice for him and the community. Nobody should ever go through what my family has gone through ever again.”

The Rondon family is working to rename the road where the 18-year-old died in his honor. 

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