Gas Explosion in North Carolina Kills 1, Injures 17

An explosion at a building in Durham, North Carolina has killed one person and injured 17 others, according to officials.

An explosion caused by a gas leak killed one person and injured 17 others in Durham, North Carolina on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Julie Wall/The News & Observer via AP

After reports of a gas leak were made, North Carolina firefighters showed up to a building Wednesday and began to evacuate the occupants. The building exploded during the evacuation, killing one person and injuring several others.

Durham’s Fire Chief Robert Zoldos reported the blast occurred at 10:07 a.m. and affected five buildings on the block, one of which suffered major damaged.

Once the fire had been contained, rescue crews began their work looking for anyone left behind in the explosion. Fire chief Zoldos said no one is unaccounted for but search and rescue teams will use listening devices as well as dogs to ensure no one is trapped inside.

Of the 17 people injured, one has been sent to a burn center and six are in critical condition. A firefighter who had responded to the gas leak call was also seriously injured and in surgery but is expected to recover.

The police department confirmed that the explosion was caused by a contractor boring under a sidewalk who accidentally hit a 2-inch gas line.

The explosion caused the windows of a nearby office building to blow out. Jim Rogalski, 58, was working in that building when the blast went off and did not suffer any injuries but admitted the explosion was “terrifying”.

“There was lots of screaming. …” Rogalski said in an interview with the Associated Press. “It was pretty frantic there for a little bit until help showed up.”

Four people working in Rogalski’s office who were seated at near the windows sustained bloody head wounds, deep cuts, and other injuries.

“It was terrifying,” Rogalski said. “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.”

In a press release on Wednesday, Dominion Energy said that subsidiary company PSNC Energy had been made aware of “third-party” damage to a natural gas line in Durham. A PSNC Energy worker was dispatched to the scene, and the explosion “occurred shortly thereafter.” Dominion Energy said the gas was shut off completely when more crews arrived to deal with the explosion.

Dominion said its “thoughts and prayers are with those impacted by this tragic event as well as their families.”