2019 Durham gas explosion
|Date||April 10, 2019|
|Location||115 North Duke Street, Brightleaf, Durham, North Carolina|
|Property damage||Destruction and collapse of buildings located at 111 and 115 N. Duke St, damaged vehicles including Porsches, windows shattered in and around Brightleaf District|
On April 10th, 2019, a gas explosion occurred near downtown Durham, North Carolina at the 115 block of North Duke Street in the Brightleaf District. The blast destroyed several buildings and damaged dozens of others, killing two people and injuring 25 others, including 9 firefighters. City officials have cited a gas leak to be the cause of the blast.
The explosion occurred at a local coffee shop by the name of Kaffeinate. The store was run by a Korean shop owner, Kong Lee and his family.
At 9:38 am, firefighters responded to a call of a potential gas leak near the Kaffeinate shop. Many witnesses reported the smell of gas prior to the explosion taking place. Durham officials stated that they evacuated eight to ten people from the coffee shop prior to the blast. The leak was reportedly caused by a gas line being breached by contractors with valid work permits.
At 10:07 am, an explosion was reported near downtown Durham.
The damage was widespread, as businesses roughly two blocks away suffered damage although this was mostly limited to shattered windows. Fifteen buildings suffered damage in and around Brightleaf. The coffee shop, Kaffeinate, was reduced to rubble as a result of the blast. An adjacent building holding a Porsche collection was destroyed. An office building directly in front of the coffee shop suffered extensive damage to its interior and exterior. The explosion could be felt several miles away, and a large smoke cloud from the resulting fire could be seen from miles away — this smoke cloud also showed up on weather radar.
The Durham School of the Arts suffered damage to its interior, although no injuries were reported.
25 people were treated for injuries and at least 10 people were sent to local hospitals. Duke Regional Hospital and Duke University Hospital each received 5 patients. Kong Lee, the owner of Kaffeinate, was killed in the blast while preparing to evacuate the store. Jay Rambeaut, a Dominion Energy first responder, was sent to UNC Medical Center, where he died from his injuries on April 25.
Five of the injured were in critical condition. Nine of the 25 injured were responding firefighters. One firefighter suffered major injuries and underwent surgery. Vincent E. Price, the president of Duke University, confirmed that 10 Duke employees were injured in the explosion.
In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, several citizens rushed to the scene to help those who were injured. Witnesses described the scene as "chaotic" and saw several people in distress. Some citizens helped people who were trapped in their cars after the airbags had exploded. More firefighters arrive to contain the blaze that ensued.
Search and rescue efforts were underway soon after the fire was contained. By Thursday night, Durham police did not believe anybody else was trapped under the rubble.
Durham School of the Arts was closed for the remainder of Wednesday after the explosion caused some interior damage. The school remained closed through Thursday and Friday.
Investigators are looking into what led the gas line to explode, as well as whether the line was marked before being breached.
A GoFundMe was started for the family of Kong Lee in the wake of the tragedy. The fundraiser has earned at least $51,000 on a $50,000 goal.
As of April 30, 2019, according to the city, there are two main concerns: the structural integrity of a wall that was part of the building that housed a collection of classic cars and the presence of asbestos in some of the debris.
As of May 6, 2019, the cause is still under investigation.
- "Crews combing over scene of massive Durham explosion that killed 2, injured 25". CBS17. April 11, 2019. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
- "'He had the biggest, purest heart.' Coffee shop owner's children pay tribute to their father". News & Observer. April 10, 2019. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
- "Emergency responders were evacuating people in Durham, N.C., when a gas explosion killed 2". CNN. April 10, 2019. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
- "Gas Explosion Shakes Downtown Durham, North Carolina". Bloomberg. April 10, 2019. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
- "Durham explosion: 9 firefighters injured, raising total injured to 25". Duke Chronicle. April 11, 2019. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
- "LATEST: Duke Hospital updates status of patients injured in deadly Durham explosion". April 11, 2019. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
- Vaughan, Dawn (April 25, 2019). "Utility worker injured in Durham gas explosion has died". The News & Observer.
- "'Frightening and sad day': Duke employees injured in Durham explosion, President Price says". Duke Chronicle. April 10, 2019. Retrieved April 12, 2019.