An explosion rocked a Durham, North Carolina shopping district and claimed the life of one person on Wednesday morning. An additional 17 people received treatment at local hospitals, with 6 of these individuals suffering from serious burn injuries.
Residents in the area reported a distressing scene as the blast shattered windows blocks away and caused one building to collapse partially. At least four people suffered lacerations and other injuries caused by shattered glass from nearby windows. Durham Fire Chief Robert Zoldos confirmed that the blast leveled one building and damaged four others.
Durham local Jim Rogalski was working near the explosion and described the scene. "The whole building shook. Things started falling—ceiling tiles, and structure and glass and debris. Lots and lots of dust. It was tough to see beyond 20 feet or so,” Rogalski said.
What Caused the Explosion?
According to an alert sent minutes before the explosion by the human resources manager in a nearby office, firefighters were investigating reports of the smell of gas in the area. Zoldos said the cause of the accident is under investigation. Firefighters were evacuating the area just before the blast. According to initial reports, a construction worker was drilling a hole beneath a sidewalk and struck a gas line, causing it to leak. Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson confirmed that boring for a fiber communications company was scheduled in the area. Durham Police Department Wil Glenn confirmed that, though an investigation is ongoing, authorities believe the explosion is linked to this leaking gas line.
The Explosion’s Aftermath
Crews quickly worked to extinguish fires and begun search and rescue operations to find anyone who might be trapped in the building. Though there are no reports of missing people, rescue teams are using dogs and listening devices to ensure that no one is trapped under rubble.
Authorities have yet to reveal the identity of the injured or the person who was killed by the explosion. However, authorities confirmed that one of the wounded is a firefighter who suffered severe injuries which are not life-threatening. The collapsed building is a former Studebaker automobile dealership. According to CNN, the building hosted a coffee shop, a mental health clinic, and other businesses.
"Half the block is destroyed," Rogalski commented to CNN. "Lots of injuries. Our office across the street was blown out. It was terrifying. Glass and debris everywhere. No one killed in our office but several injuries—deep cuts, head lacerations."
Our Durham explosion attorneys will continue to follow this story as authorities release more details about the incident.