Report: Downtown Durham explosion that killed 2, injured 25 was an accident

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – An explosion in downtown Durham that killed two people and injured 25 more was deemed accidental, according to the City of Durham Fire Department’s report released Friday.

The gas line was cut by three Optic Cable Technology LLC employees operating the equipment that struck the line, the report said.

Kong Lee, 61, was killed in the explosion. He was the owner of the Kaffeinate coffee shop in downtown Durham. A Dominion Gas employee injured in the April 10 blast died on April 25.

The report, referencing surveillance footage, explains that Lee appeared to have knowledge of the gas leak moments after the line was struck. Footage shows him approaching the crew about a foul smell at 9:07 a.m., which was about a minute after the line was struck.

Click here to read the full report.

The first 911 call about the smell of gas happened within the next five minutes. The explosion happened at about 10:06 a.m.

The report is the result of a three-month investigation. It featured more than 25 people interviewed, as well as a review of videotapes and 911 calls, among other things.

Per the report, “an explosive atmosphere was created when a gas service line was struck during a horizontal boring operation. This breach allowed fugitive gas to flow until reaching an ignition source, at which time an explosion occurred resulting in severely damaged and destroyed buildings.”

There was “no evidence of criminal intent by any company or individual to warrant criminal prosecution,” it said.

There are three more reports set to be released later in the fall. Two are after-action reports — one from Durham City-County Emergency Management and another from the Durham Fire Department — that will review the responses from a strategic standpoint. The third will come from the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

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