Dominion Energy said crews remained on the scene Thursday of a deadly natural gas pipeline explosion in downtown Durham, NC, and representatives were providing assistance to residents and business owners affected by Wednesday's blast.
Dominion said the incident interrupted service to 19 active meters and was caused when a contractor doing excavation work dug into a 2-inch diameter gas line. The contractor was not a Dominion employee and not working on behalf of the company.
"Crews are inspecting the company's natural gas facilities to ensure public safety," Dominion said. "The company is coordinating with the City of Durham and fire department officials to determine when we can safely restore service to impacted customers and facilities."
Genscape Inc. analysts said the nearest interstate pipeline to the blast is the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line, aka Transco, about 70 miles away. "Nominations data does not reflect any impact from the explosion, as the volumes on a 2-inch pipe are comparatively small, and all drops from Transco citygates in North Carolina are most likely due to milder weather day/day.”
According to reports, 25 people including nine firefighters, were injured in the explosion. At a Thursday morning press conference, Durham Deputy Fire Chief Christopher Iannuzzi said firefighters who first arrived on scene found “a significant gas leak and requested additional resources from PSNC Energy," the Dominion subsidiary that serves the city.
One man was killed, according to authorities. WRAL-TV identified the victim as 61-year-old Kong Lee, who owned the Kaffeinate coffee shop, one of several businesses in a building damaged in the blast. Fifteen buildings were damaged, one catastrophically, Iannuzzi said, but there were no people reported missing. Investigators were trying to determine if any buildings were in danger of collapse.
An investigation is underway by the Durham Fire Department Fire Marshal's Office, the Durham Police Department, the state Bureau of Investigation, the Office of State Fire Marshal and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Dominion's Southeast Energy Group CEO Rodney Blevins said the focus now “is working in cooperation with local agencies to ensure the area is safe for residents to return. In responding to any situation where the integrity of our infrastructure has been compromised, our first priority is always safety. Our response plan is directed toward public safety first."