The town of Farmington, Maine, welcomed its fire chief home in a tearful procession Tuesday after he was released from the hospital as the town continues to recover from last month’s deadly gas explosion, officials said.
Farmington Fire Chief Terry Bell, 62, was released from Maine Medical Center in Portland after entering the hospital in critical condition, the hospital said in a statement Tuesday. Terry Bell’s brother, Captain Michael Bell, 68, died in the Sept. 16 blast at LEAP Inc., an organization that helps people with developmental disabilities, Maine State Police said. Six firefighters and one civilian were also injured.
Maine State Police, town residents, and Farmington police and firefighters lined the streets to salute the fire chief as he returned home, said Richard Davis, Farmington’s town manager.
“He was tearful. I think he was moved by the outpouring of support. He chatted with members of the department, who came up and hugged him and gave him words of encouragement,” Davis said.
The explosion was caused by a pipe leak that allowed propane to seep into LEAP’s basement, the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office said Sept. 27.
Captain Scott Baxter, 37, is the last firefighter left in the hospital after the blast. He remained in fair condition at Maine Medical Center Tuesday, the hospital said.
The Bell family held a private funeral last month for Michael Bell, the family said in a statement.
“The family had decided some time ago that they would postpone any formal public ceremonies until there was an opportunity for all the injured firefighters who were healed to participate. We still have Captain Scott Baxter at Maine Medical Center who has yet to be released, so it may be some time before another public ceremony takes place,” said Stephan Bunker, a spokesperson for the family.
Larry Lord, a maintenance worker at LEAP who was injured in the blast, remained in critical condition Wednesday morning at Massachusetts General Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.
A fundraiser for Lord raised almost $115,000 as of Wednesday morning, according to his GoFundMe page.
“He continues to receive the best possible care here,” the family said on his fundraising page Sunday. “Those of you who know Larry know he would be humbled by the attention but please know he appreciates your love.”
Davis, the town manager, said he expects the town will need a year to sort out donations and recover from the blast.
”Some members who were directly involved, including members of the fire department and first responders, are dealing with some trauma from the event,” Davis said. “It’s unfortunate it takes a tragedy to reveal the inherent goodness of people, but it is heartwarming to see that.”
Alyssa Lukpat can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AlyssaLukpat.