Legal pot, gas explosions, shark attacks topped Mass. news in 2018

  • Steve McFadden, 49, of Plattsburgh, N.Y., gazes at Long Nook Beach in Truro, Mass., on Cape Cod, Aug. 16, 2018. The beach had been closed to swimmers after a man was attacked there by a shark the previous afternoon. Two shark attacks off the Cape Cod shore this summer were among the state's top stories in 2018. AP PHOTO/William J Kole

  • Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, center, celebrates victory over U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., in the 7th Congressional House Democratic primary, in Boston, Sept. 4, 2018. The election of Pressley as the state's first black woman to represent its citizens in Congress was among Massachusetts' top stories in 2018. AP PHOTO/Steven Senne

  • Massachusetts Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, center, speaks between Gov. Charlie Baker, left, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, right, during a news conference outside the governor's office at the Statehouse in Boston, Jan. 12, 2015. Rosenberg resigned in May 2018, after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against the Democrat's estranged husband, Bryon Hefner. AP PHOTO/Steven Senne

  • In this still image from video provided by WCVB in Boston, flames consume the home of police officer Ivan Soto in Lawrence, Mass, a suburb north of Boston, Sept. 13, 2018. The dramatic series of explosions from an over-pressurized gas pipeline was among the state's top stories in 2018. WCVB VIA AP

  • Fire investigators pause while searching the debris at a home in Lawrence, Mass., damaged after a gas pipeline pressure failure that caused destruction in several communities in the Merrimack Valley, Sept. 21, 2018. The disaster was among the state's top stories in 2018. AP PHOTO/Charles Krupa

  • A worker with Columbia gas stands over an open man hole as the crew works to make sure there are no gas leaks at the corner of Parker and Salem Streets in Lawrence, Mass. Multiple houses were damaged from gas explosions and fires triggered by a problem with a gas line that feeds homes in several communities north of Boston. The disaster was among the state's top stories in 2018. AP PHOTO/Mary Schwalm

  • Natural gas contract worker Jary Pena, of Andover, Mass., left, places his foot on a damaged boiler as he and co-workers prepare to remove it from the basement of a home in Andover, Nov. 8, 2018. Federal investigators confirmed that over-pressurized natural gas lines were the source of a series of explosions and fires in several communities north of Boston on Sept. 13. The disaster was among the top stories in the state in 2018. AP PHOTO/Steven Senne

  • In this file photo, Stephen Mandile, right, an Iraq War veteran from Uxbridge, Mass., is the first to purchase recreational marijuana at the Cultivate dispensary in Leicester, Mass., on the first day of legal sales in Massachusetts, Nov. 20, 2018. Voters approved it in 2016, but the start of recreational marijuana sales was among the tops stories in the state in 2018. AP PHOTO/Steven Senne

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    This 1953 Boston police booking photo shows James "Whitey" Bulger after an arrest. Bulger and his girlfriend Catherine Greig were apprehended on June 22, 2011, in Santa Monica, Calif., after 16 years on the run. He was convicted of multiple crimes and sentenced to federal prison in 2013. His October 2018 killing in prison was one of Massachusetts' top stories of the year. BOSTON POLICE VIA AP

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., greets people following a town hall event at Belkin Family Lookout Farm in Natick, Mass., July 8, 2018. Warren's rebuff of ridicules by President President Donald Trump and her possible challenge against him in the 2020 campaign ranked among the top stories for 2018 in Massachusetts. AP PHOTO/Steven Senne

Associated Press
Published: 12/26/2018 4:00:16 PM

BOSTON — 2018 was a year of firsts in Massachusetts.

The first stores east of Colorado selling recreational marijuana opened to great buzz and fanfare. So did the state’s first Las Vegas-style resort casino. For the first time, voters sent a black woman to Congress. And the commonwealth saw its first fatal shark attack on a person since 1936.

A look back at those and other top stories:


The grass may not be greener on this side of the U.S., but it’s just as lucrative: Massachusetts’ first commercial pot shops raked in more than $7 million in their first few weeks in business. Two licensed shops, one in Leicester and the other in Northampton, opened in November — two years after voters approved legal recreational weed in a 2016 referendum — and others were opening in Salem, Wareham and Easthampton. State regulators say yet more stores will open in 2019.


Cape Cod felt like “Jaws” was playing out for real after a great white shark fatally attacked a 26-year-old man just a few weeks after, and a few miles down the coast from, a separate attack that seriously injured a 61-year-old tourist. It was the first shark attack death in Massachusetts waters in 82 years, and it left officials anguishing over how to protect swimmers — and a multimillion-dollar tourism industry.


Ayanna Pressley headed to Washington after voters elected her as the state’s first black woman to represent them in Congress. Pressley, a Democrat, unseated 10-term Rep. Michael Capuano in the primary and cruised to victory unopposed in November’s midterms. Pressley already had made history as the first African-American to serve on the Boston City Council.


One after another, in rapid succession, more than 100 homes and businesses across the Merrimack Valley were engulfed in fireballs that killed a teenager, injured two dozen other people and left thousands homeless. The dramatic series of explosions was blamed on Columbia Gas, which let too much pressure build up in gas lines supplying Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.


2018 was the end of the road, literally and figuratively, for two mobsters who spent decades terrorizing Boston. James “Whitey” Bulger, 89, was serving a life sentence for 11 murders and other crimes when he was bludgeoned to death just hours after being transferred to a federal prison in West Virginia. Earlier in the year, “Cadillac” Frank Salemme was convicted and sentenced to life for the 1993 killing of a nightclub owner.


U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren vowed to take a hard look at challenging President Donald Trump in 2020, and while she didn’t definitively declare, the liberal Democrat increasingly sounded like a candidate on the stump. Warren released DNA test results that provide some evidence of a Native American in her ancestry — an attempt to rebuff Trump, who ridicules her as “Pocahontas” for claiming native heritage.


A lawsuit accusing Harvard University of racial bias in the way it admits students was tried in federal court, with many expecting the case to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Harvard was accused of intentionally discriminating against Asian-Americans through a personal rating score that measures character traits such as “courage” and “likeability.” The school says race only boosts an applicant’s chances.


In a scandal that played out beneath the golden dome of the Statehouse, former Senate President Stan Rosenberg resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against the Democrat’s estranged husband, Bryon Hefner. An ethics report concluded that Rosenberg failed to protect the Senate from Hefner, accused by several men of sexual assault or harassment.


Massachusetts’ first resort casino with expansive gambling and entertainment options opened with a Las Vegas-style flourish. The $960 million MGM Springfield occupies a section of downtown hit hard by a major tornado in 2011. More gambling options are on the way: Wynn Resorts is planning to open a $2 billion casino in Everett, on the outskirts of Boston, next summer.


Four powerful nor’easters in three weeks knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses, trashing many properties and public infrastructure along the battered coastline. Damage from hurricane-force winds, floodwaters and heavy snowfall prompted the federal government to declare the March storms a disaster .


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