• Officer loses home while trying to help teen killed during gas explosions

    By: Litsa Pappas

    Updated:

    While a Lawrence Police officer was making sure his community was safe on Thursday as gas explosions were happening throughout the area, his own home went up in flames.

    Officer Ivan Soto saw his own home on Jefferson Street get engulfed in the fire, but said once he know his family was safe, he went right back to work.

    >>MORE: LIVE BLOG: 1 dead, over 20 injured after gas explosions, fires in Merrimack Valley

    "We didn’t know how many more houses were gonna blow up," Soto said. "I knew my family was okay, so as long as they were okay, I wanted to make sure everyone else’s family was okay."

    One of Soto's daughters was home from school when she heard the explosion, and saw smoke filling the basement.

    "While I'm on the phone with her, she panicked because she felt the explosion," Veronica Soto, Ivan's wife, said.

    The daughter escaped the fire, but sadly, the family lost their two cats.

    "We lost everything material which can be replaced," Veronica Soto said. "We did lose our fur babies, which that, that’s the hardest part."

    Neighbors created a GoFundMe for the Soto family, raising more than 40-thousand dollars in less than 24 hours. 

    While Soto's house was burning to the ground, he was out trying to help other families.

    Soto was one of the first responders who tried to save the 18-year-old victim, Leonel Rondon, who died after getting stuck under a chimney when a house exploded on Chickering Road.

    >>MORE: MERRIMACK VALLEY GAS EXPLOSIONS: 18-year-old killed in Lawrence

    "We jumped on the car, and we were trying to pull the chimney," Soto said. "We just want to get it off of him, you know. We wanted to save him."

    The teen died at the hospital, and while Soto appreciates the donations and support coming in for his family after losing their home, he hopes the community shares the love and helps the teen's family after the tragic death.

    "I just wanna make sure that Leo's family is taken care of, too, and people can donate," Soto said.

    Soto said he's going to share a GoFundMe for the victim's family after the death.

    >>MORE: MERRIMACK VALLEY GAS EXPLOSIONS: Where you can donate, volunteer

    To donate to Rondon's family's GoFundMe, you can head to this link. 

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