Lawsuits claim 8 companies were negligent in downtown Durham explosion that killed 2, injured 25

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Four lawsuits were filed Monday by a Raleigh firm on behalf of people killed or injured in the April 10, 2019 gas explosion in downtown Durham, a news release said.

The lawsuit alleged that eight companies were negligent. The explosion happened after a drilling company hired as part of a project to lay fiber cable in downtown Durham hit a 3/4-inch gas line. The line was hit shortly after 9 a.m. The explosion happened about an hour later.

Kong Lee, the owner of the Kaffeinate coffee shop at the cite of the explosion, died. One of the suits filed Monday was on behalf of his family. A Dominion Gas employee also died on April 15, 2019, as a result of injuries sustained.

According to the release, others who filed suit on Monday were:

  • Richard V. Meyers, of Raleigh. He was a bus driver who was pulling up across from Kaffeinate when the explosion happened.
  • Katrics Edwards, of Selma, who was walking into the coffee shop when the explosion happened.
  • Jasper O. Poole, of Durham, who had been trying to deliver flowers in the area when the explosion occurred.

According to the lawsuit, the drilling company was required to locate gas lines and other utilities, but failed to that day. The companies being sued are:

  • Optic Cable Technology, which is a Durham company that was operating the drill when the line was struck.
  • PS Splicing, which is an Oxford company that hired Optic Cable Technology.
  • Crown Castle Fiber and three other related fiber technology companies that, according to the lawsuit, were in charge of the project.
  • Tower Engineering Professionals, which is a Raleigh company that was the engineer for the project.
  • Public Service Gas Company of North Carolina, which, according to the suit, failed to adequately respond once the gas leak was discovered.

Optic Cable Technology, Dominion Energy, and PS Splicing were all fined by the North Carolina Department of Labor in October 2019.

“This tragedy was caused by a cascade of errors,” said David Kirby, who is one of the lawyers with Edwards Kirby, LLP, who filed the lawsuits. “The gas line would not have been ruptured if standard safety protocols were followed by all the contractors involved in the planning and execution of a major underground cable installation project in downtown Durham. Things only got worse when no one immediately called 911 to report a major gas leak that could have been shut off preventing the explosion.”

A Durham Fire Department report released in August 2019 labeled the explosion an accident. Two more reports were released in November 2019.

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