Building explosion in Durham, NC: gas leak cited


DURHAM, N.C (WNCN/AP) – Emergency responders are on the scene of an explosion following a gas leak that occurred on N. Duke Street Wednesday morning and left at least one person dead and more than a dozen injured.

Durham police said that Durham firefighters were sent to a gas leak call in the 100 block of N. Duke Street at 9:38 a.m. A contractor was boring under the sidewalk and struck a 2-inch gas line.

At 10:07 a.m., Dominion Energy and the Durham Fire Department were investigating the leak when the explosion happened, police said.

Officials said at least one person died as a result of the explosion and at least 15 people were transported to the hospital, including a firefighter who was seriously injured. A Dominion Energy employee was also injured.

Eleven of the 15 who were injured were transported to Duke University Medical Center, police said. The other four were taken to Duke Regional Hospital. The conditions of the injured are not available, police said.

Authorities said the building where the explosion occurred is partially collapsed and the building across the street is damaged as well.

Students from a nearby school, the Durham School of the Arts, were evacuated and classes dismissed for the day.

Duke University employee Mary Williams told the AP she heard the explosion and felt shaking at her building a third of a mile away.

“I was in the kitchen. I heard this loud boom and the building shook. When I looked out, I saw the smoke billowing up. I was scared for whoever was in the vicinity because it did not look very good.”

Another Duke employee in the same building, Sharon Caple, said the sky darkened in the minutes afterward.

“All you saw was this black smoke,” she said.

The explosion happened in a shopping district created from remodeled tobacco warehouses and industrial buildings near downtown Durham.

The building is occupied by Prescient Co., which said in July 2017 that it was moving its headquarters from Arvada, Colorado, and expected to employ about 60 executives, engineering and sales workers in Durham. The company uses specialized software to design and build precise materials that allow builders to assemble multi-story apartments, hotels and other commercial buildings faster and cheaper.

Durham police said the following intersections downtown are closed:

  • Duke Street at Main Street
  • Duke Street at Gregson Street
  • Duke Street at Peabody Street
  • Duke Street at Pettigrew Street
  • Duke Street at Chapel Hill Street
  • Chapel Hill Street at Gregson Street
  • Gregson Street at Peabody Street
  • Gregson Street at W. Main Street
  • Gregson Street at Lamond Avenue
  • W. Main Street at Fuller Street
  • Fuller Street at W. Morgan Street

Police are warning people to stay away from downtown if possible as the scene is still active and most of the area is shut down to traffic.

Authorities are planning another update at 2 p.m.

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