One Week Later: Agencies Investigate Cause of Deadly Durham Explosion – Spectrum News

One Week Later: Agencies Investigate Cause of Deadly Durham Explosion - Spectrum News
A week later, we still dont know who cut the line that triggered Durham gas blast
DURHAM, N.C. — Wednesday marks one week since a natural gas explosion in Durham killed one and left about two dozen hurt.

At least four agencies are looking into what happened, with the two biggest questions being What caused a worker to cut a gas line and what ignited the explosion?

Rambeauts sister-in-law, Donna Jackson, said had had gone into cardiac arrest but doctors were able to revive him. She said its likely Rambeauts wife and son will both have to leave work in order to care for him.

The city of Durham wants to piece together a time line, find out who is at fault, and the condition of the building damaged in the blast.

We also know that the Department of Transportation sent an investigator from its Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to take a look.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission also will examine that gas pipeline and the state Department of Labor has a stake as well.

Rambeaut was among the first on the scene in Durham when there was a report of gas leak. The ensuing explosion killed one man and injured 25 others

The DOL is reviewing the records and work of four companies, including Crown Castle USA, Tower Engineering Professionals, the Durham Fire Department, and PSNC Energy.

On Wednesday, a publicist for former U.S. senator John Edwards personal injury law firm announced the Lee family had retained the Raleigh firm, though no lawsuit has been filed. Edwards Kirby law firm was founded by Edwards, a two-time Democratic presidential candidate.

The agencies say theres no time frame on when their investigations will wrap up. It could take weeks or even months.

In an interview Wednesday Fire Chef Robert Zoldos said he only learned about the earlier 911 call this week, when news media outlets asked for recordings of other 911 calls about gas leaks reported April 10. The city publicly shared information about the call on Tuesday.

Durham, N.C. — A week after the explosion that rocked Durhams warehouse district, killing one man and injuring more than two dozen, there is no timeline on when the city will complete the investigation into what caused it. It is still not completely clear who hit the gas line outside 115 N. Duke St.

The first caller reached 911 at 9:11 a.m. — roughly 26 minutes before the contractors call — and said she was near the Durham School of the Arts, between Corporation Street and Minerva Avenue, Zoldos said.

“The impact of this terrible tragedy is something we are still understanding and will be reflecting on for some time,” said Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson.

The citys fire chief explained Wednesday why it took nearly a week to publicly disclose a 911 call reporting an odor of gas roughly an hour before the deadly April 10 gas explosion in downtown Durham.

“There are some key interviews that have not taken place yet,” Ferguson said on Wednesday. “From Utilis Engineering, from Tower Engineering – we have asked them to confirm the crew. At this time, they have declined to confirm the crew.”

There were several reasons, including the location provided by the first 911 caller, that the report of that earlier call was delayed by almost a week, Zoldos said.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission also has a safety investigation into the explosion, and they too are still waiting on answers.

The explosion and fire on North Duke Street near Brightleaf Square killed Kaffeinate coffee-shop owner Kong Lee and injured 25 others, including nine firefighters.

Utilis and Tower are just two of a web of contractors and subcontractors who had permits to do work in the city.

SHARE COPY LINK Durham Fire Chief Bob Zoldos speaks on Thursday afternoon about what his firefighters went through during the aftermath of Wednesdays explosion.

The Utilities Commission says the number of subcontractors that can be involved in these types of projects means a number of lawyers as well.

That earlier call came from a woman reporting a strong smell of gas as she drove through the North Duke and Morgan streets intersection.

According to the city, a woman reported the smell of gas in the area at 9:11 a.m. Firefighters responded, but they could not locate the smell themselves.

At 9:28 a.m., an employee of PS Splicing LLC reported via the NC 811 app that a gas line had been cut. Ten minutes later, a call came in to 911 to report the same thing.

“We simply dont know what accounts for that time,” Ferguson said. The city is also not certain the two 911 calls are related to the same event.

Louis Panzer, with NC 811, says workers must contact 911 as soon as it is safe if a gas line is broken.

While the explosion is still being investigated, Ferguson said he believes preliminary findings show the citys first responders reacted well.

Since the explosion, there have been no changes to city regulations around ordering an evacuation when a gas leak is suspected.

Ferguson points to a long history of safe operations. “The history of all of this utility work in Durham has been that there hasnt been a series of tragic events. We had one terrible event,” he said.

The family for whom last weeks explosion was most tragic on Wednesday contracted with a Raleigh personal injury firm.

Kong Lee, 61, was the owner of the Kaffeinate coffeeshop in the building that took the brunt of the blast. His employees and customers made it out on the urging of firefighters right before the explosion. Lee did not, and he was the sole casualty of the event.

His family has hired Edwards Kirby, with name partner John Edwards, who is a former U.S. senator and Democratic candidate for president. Edwards swift political rise came to a crashing halt when his affair and child with a campaign staffer came to light, even as his wife battled breast cancer.

Before he ran for office, Edwards made his name in personal injury law, especially in suing tobacco companies.


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