25 Injured, Including 9 Firefighters, In Deadly Durham Explosion; Damage To 15 Buildings

Apr 11, 2019

Firefighters surveyed the collapsed building in downtown Durham on Wednesday.
Credit City of Durham

The injury count from Wednesday's explosion in downtown Durham that killed coffee shop owner Kong Lee increased to 16 civilians and nine firefighters, officials said Thursday morning. In addition, 15 buildings were determined to have sustained some damage.

Durham Fire Chief Robert Zoldos said firefighters were able to alert customers and employees of the Kaffeinate coffee shop and other tenants of the building at 115 N. Duke to evacuate. He added specifically that firefighters recommended that Lee evacuate "seconds" before the explosion. There were eight to 10 people in the coffee shop, according to Zoldos.

Durham Fire Chief Robert Zoldos, center black jacket, and other Durham officials. Wil Glenn, at podium, is with the Durham City Police.
Credit Jason deBruyn / WUNC

There were no reports of missing persons, though officials said they could not be sure that there wasn't anyone still trapped in the collapsed building. Search and rescue dogs were on the scene Thursday morning.

Durham officials did not release any new information about what caused the explosion. Deputy City Manager Bowman "Bo" Ferguson said there was an ongoing investigation. That included looking at construction crews which were operating in the area, and if gas lines were properly marked on city maps.

A view down Duke Street in downtown Durham on Thursday morning.
Credit Jason deBruyn / WUNC

Roads around the damaged area would remain closed indefinitely, according to Durham Police Public Affairs Manager Wil Glenn. Firefighters were still concerned that some additional buildings could have sustained enough structural damage that they might yet collapse. For more information on when buildings will receive certificates of occupancy, call 919-560-4427 extension 29600.