EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 7, 2012

Lawrence teen badly burned in explosion

Father also injured; authorities believe cause accidental

By Keith Eddings keddings@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — LAWRENCE — A father and his 13-year-old son were airlifted to a Boston hospital with serious burns yesterday afternoon after an explosion ripped through the basement of a Woodland Street home owned by a city police officer where the father had been doing maintenance work.

Investigators believe the blast was accidental.

A fire dispatcher said the boy was burned over 60 percent of his body, but had no information on the injuries to the father.

A neighborhood boy who biked to the house at 71 Woodland St. said both father and son were talking as they were carried in stretchers up the asphalt driveway and loaded into ambulances just after the explosion at 2:20 p.m. He said the father had an oxygen mask over his mouth.

Both were taken to Lawrence General Hospital, then by helicopter to Massachusetts General Hospital. A hospital spokeswoman could not comment on their conditions without their names, which Deputy Fire Chief Brian Murphy was withholding pending notification of family.

Murphy also would not provide their hometowns, but said they did not live in the house.

He said the cause of the explosion is under investigation, but said he believed it was an accident.

“It was accidental, with no violation of law, no illegal activities,” Murphy said. He said there was minimal fire damage to the basement and that the house suffered no structural damage.

The tidy green and white two-family paneled house, on a street of similar two-and-three family homes, also did not appear to be damaged. It was occupied by at least one person at the time of the explosion.

The house is owned by Gary Yancey, a Lawrence police officer who testified last month before a grand jury investigating alleged criminal wrongdoing by Mayor William Lantigua and members of his administration. Yancey is assigned to a special operations division of the Police Department, but until recently was assigned to City Hall and occasionally drove the mayor.

Murphy said investigators spoke to Jackie Yancey, believed to be Gary Yancey’s wife, after the explosion. He did not elaborate.

A woman leaned out of a second-story window as firefighters and investigators, including a team from the state Fire Marshal’s office, swarmed around the house and yard. No one responded to a knock on the front door.

Several neighbors also leaned from their windows or gathered on their porches and lawns to watch the activity along the block in the Prospect Hill neighborhood, which was blocked by a police car and a firetruck.

A few said they know little about the occupants of the house and had no idea what might have caused the explosion.

Joey Morse, the 13-year-old who rode his stunt bike to the house after hearing about the explosion on a police scanner, said he heard firefighters tell neighbors that the explosion was caused by chemicals or gas. Murphy, the deputy chief, said the house has natural gas piped from the street, but said that was not a cause of the explosion.

“They brought the kid out on a stretcher first,” Joey said. “He wasn’t talking much. They put him in an ambulance. Shortly after the ambulance left with the little kid, they brought the dad out, with oxygen on.”

A child’s pair of unlaced sneakers, a baseball cap and a torn shirt lay in the driveway.

Investigators remained at the house at least to 6:30, more than four hours after the explosion.