Fire chief: Coffee shop owner was told to leave before blast

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) - The toll of people injured in a downtown Durham gas explosion that leveled a building has risen to 25, including nine firefighters.

Durham Deputy Fire Chief Chris Iannuzzi said eight more firefighters were treated at a hospital, in addition to the one who underwent surgery. All are expected to be released Thursday.

Fire officials also released more details about the coffee shop where owner Kong Lee died. Authorities say the explosion happened after a contractor boring along a sidewalk hit a gas line.

Chief Bob Zoldos said firefighters told people in the shop to evacuate and got about 10 customers out. He said that firefighters had asked Lee to leave and saw him in the shop's doorway shortly before the explosion.

Authorities said there's no indication anyone else was trapped.

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An emergency official says six of the people injured in a deadly explosion in downtown Durham North Carolina, were critically hurt and one of them has been transferred to the burn unit.

The person killed has been identified as 61-year-old Kong Lee, the owner of a nearby coffee shop.

Durham EMS Assistant Chief Lee Van Vleet told a news conference a total of 17 people were hospitalized after the Wednesday morning blast that partially collapsed a building and set it on fire.

Durham Fire Chief Robert Zoldos was one of the first responders after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and told reporters the building now looks like the Pentagon did after terrorists crashed a passenger jet into it.

Zoldos says all others who were known to have been in the area have been accounted for.

The investigation is ongoing but Durham police say a contractor boring under a sidewalk hit a gas line triggering the explosion.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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A firefighter and a Dominion Energy employee are among the 15 people injured in a gas explosion that also killed one person in downtown Durham.

A city news release says 11 people were taken to Duke University Medical Center and four were taken to Duke Regional Hospital for treatment. Their conditions weren't immediately available.

The Wednesday morning explosion partially collapsed a building and set it on fire.

Durham police spokesman Wil Glenn says a contractor boring under a sidewalk hit a 2-inch (5-centimeter) gas line, triggering the explosion.


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Eyewitnesses are saying they thought a bomb had gone off or an earthquake had hit after a gas explosion in downtown, Durham, that has killed at least one person and injured others.

Witness Donna Hester told WRAL-TV the Wednesday morning explosion sounded like a bomb. Another witness, Kelly Andrus, told the TV station she first thought the shaking was an earthquake. She said she looked outside her workplace and saw deep, black smoke billowing from the site.

Police cars blocked the streets in several directions of the explosion. A thick acrid smoked hung over a shopping district near downtown Durham. Helicopters circled overhead.


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At least one person has been killed in a gas explosion at a building in downtown Durham.

Durham police public affairs manager Wil Glenn says another 15 people have been taken to hospitals after the Wednesday morning explosion that officials have blamed on a gas leak.


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Authorities say emergency officials are responding to an explosion and fire possibly caused by a gas leak in downtown Durham.

The city of Durham tweeted Wednesday that people should avoid the area of Duke and Morgan streets. The city said police and fire officials as well as those from PSNC Energy are responding.

There was no immediate word on any injuries.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)