A gas explosion killed 1 person and injured 15 others in downtown Durham on Wednesday morning.
"I've never seen anything like it before," Robin Jarvi said. "I was sitting at the traffic light...and I smelled heavy, heavy gas. There were people in the building. I saw a business owner put a sign that said 'Business is closed for the day because of a gas leak.' As soon as I went through the traffic light, the whole building exploded."
The explosion happened shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday at 115 North Duke Street when a contractor hit a gas line. That contractor was hired by Kaffeinate coffee shop and did receive the required permits before beginning work, according to North Carolina 811 Executive Director Louis Panzer. Panzer said an investigation into what happened will take place.
Dominion Energy said it shut off the flow of gas at approximately 11:10 a.m.
During a press briefing just after 11:30, Durham officials confirmed that 1 person had died in the explosion and 15 people were injured--11 of them were taken to Duke Regional Hospital and four were taken to Duke University Hospital.
A Durham firefighter was one of the people injured. He was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. A Dominion Energy employee was also injured in the explosion. Conditions of the other injured people have not been released.
Some people in downtown Durham have reported having cloudy or brown water. The city said that is happening because of the extra demand being put on the system by first responders in the area.
The explosion happened a couple of buildings away from Durham School of the Arts. No students were injured.
"Our students and staff are safe in place at the school; there have been no injuries. Dismissal is process," Durham Public Schools said in a statement on Twitter.
The building where the explosion happened, 115 North Duke Street, is historically known as the "Studebaker Building." Built in 1920, the building was home to a car dealership and then an auto parts store. According to Open Durham, the building was later part of a restaurant complex before being converted into various offices.
Prescient Company leased the space starting in 2017. They are not the owners. It is owned by a West Coast real estate company called 2050 Bentley LLC Kaffeinate coffee shop and Main Street Clinical Associates are also located in the same building.
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