Durham Fire Department, 5 companies being inspected after fatal blast

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – The investigation into a deadly gas line explosion includes state inspections of the Durham Fire Department and five companies.

Inspectors from the North Carolina Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health division are looking at employers who had workers hurt in the blast or companies who could have contributed to the explosion which killed a coffee shop owner and a gas company employee.

A memorial service Dominion Energy’s Jay Rambeaut was Tuesday afternoon.

The funeral for Kong Lee, the owner of Kaffeinate, will be May 8 at 11 a.m. at New Horizon Church in Durham.

Department of Labor spokesperson Mary Katherine Revels said OSH inspectors will investigate any workplace accident in which an employee suffers injury.

“We’re there to figure out what caused the accident, and if any violations pertain to the accident, then there will be citations issued,” Revels said.

“They’re going to be looking at employee witness statements, interviewing those employees, any kind of witness that was there during the event, just to see if any safety and health standards were violated that contributed to the event.”

Revels said two key components of the investigation are a review of whether or not utility lines were properly marked and if workers followed procedures to drill around those lines, and if emergency evacuation plans were in place.

People evacuated several buildings near the Duke Street site, including the Durham School of the Arts, but Revels said the Department of Labor is only reviewing locations where there were injuries. The inspection also only looks at employees who may have been involved, not any customers or passers-by who were hurt.

The six companies under Department of Labor review are:

  • The Durham Fire Department, which had nine firefighters suffer injuries.
  • PSNC Energy/Dominion Energy, which had an employee die from injuries incurred in the explosion.
  • PS Splicing, which first reported the cut gas line. The company’s CEO was hurt by the blast.
  • Tower Engineering, which managed the work site.
  • Crown Castle, which hired a contractor to install fiber.
  • Optic Cable Technology, which digs and installs fiber optic cables.

The North Carolina Department of Labor has a requirement that its investigations be completed within six months, so there is an early October deadline. Revels said some investigations take weeks, not months.

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