Home Fire News Helmet cam shows massive damage, firefighters responding to deadly Durham gas explosion

Helmet cam shows massive damage, firefighters responding to deadly Durham gas explosion


Joe Johnson
The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Multiple videos released Thursday show the destruction caused by a natural gas explosion on Duke Street in April.

Durham officials released seven videos, including five from body cameras worn by firefighters. The videos were heavily redacted but conveyed the chaos that firefighters encountered as they rescued the injured and worked to put out the subsequent fire following the April 10 disaster at 115 N. Duke St.

The explosion killed two people and injured about two dozen others.

The videos show numerous Durham Fire Department fire trucks parked on Duke Street and in the parking lot on the other side of the building. Firefighters are seen spraying water on the flames following the blast that destroyed two buildings and damaged several other nearby business.

Firefighters survey the scene

In one video, one firefighter asks another, “When did it explode?”

He responds “Like, when we got here.”

A woman is heard screaming, “You all need to get five blocks away right now.”

Emergency workers apparently set up a triage area near the intersection of Duke and Morgan streets. A firefighter is seen pulling a basket stretcher from a firetruck.

A firefighter says one person had suffered a severely injured ankle, while responders were treating three others with injuries.

“Your most critical patients are going to be at Duke and Morgan,” a responder says.

It also shows a damaged Carolina Livery bus surrounded by firetrucks. The bus was at a stop when the explosion occurred.

Firefighters are seen in another video battling the fire from inside the next door building. They were trying to prevent it from reaching Torrero’s and the St. James, two restaurants facing Main Street.

The building housed the Porsche collection owned by Robert Ingram, a general partner in a venture capital firm who previously was the CEO of a major pharmaceutical company.

Another video from a drone shows the collapsed storefronts of the two heavily damaged buildings. Smoke is billowing from the rear of the building as firefighters spray water on the blaze.

It also shows multiple window frames strewn on Morgan Street.

911 callers smell gas

Two calls to 911 also were released.

The first 911 call occurred at approximately 9:11 a.m. in the vicinity of 401 North Duke St. from a passing driver, the report says.

The caller told investigators “the smell of gas ‘engulfed her car’ with all the windows up.” She said the smell continued to be prevalent as she drove toward Morgan Street, but she did not know its source.

The other 911 call was received at about 9:37 a.m. from Don Smith, owner of PS Splicing, LLC, the report says.

The report says fire and EMS personnel encountered Smith, who directed them to the location of the gas leak.

The explosion occurred at 10:06 a.m., according to a Durham Fire Department report released Aug. 9.

The Durham Fire Department concluded the explosion was an accident. The explosion destroyed the building containing two business: Kaffeinate and Prescient. A number of nearby properties were also significantly damaged, the fire department report says.

It found a contractor ruptured a natural gas line five feet from Kaffeinate coffee shop owner Kong Lee’s door and that gas flowed for one hour. It found no evidence that anyone from the contractor’s crew called 911.

Lee died in the explosion.

The second fatality was Jay Rambeaut, a PSNC worker responding to the gas leak who died two weeks later.

Reports from three additional investigations are expected in the fall, Durham authorities say.


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