The Durham Police Department announced Wednesday night that the owner of Kaffeinate coffee shop, 61-year-old Kong Lee, died in the explosion that destroyed his coffee shop earlier in the day.
Lee opened Kaffeinate with his two children, Raymond and Diana Lee, in the fall of 2017.
The explosion left 17 injured—including Durham firefighter Darren Wheeler and eight Duke employees.
Durham Fire Chief Robert Zoldos said that his crew responded to reports of a gas leak around 9:30 a.m. that morning and began evacuating the buildings. The explosion, which affected roughly five buildings, occurred after 10:00 a.m.
The coffee shop, located at 115A North Duke Street, was within the building that was leveled by the explosion and subsequent fire that left a cloud of smoke billowing through downtown Durham.
Zoldos said crews are still trying to sift through the rubble.
“[It’s an] entire structure that’s down," Zoldos said. "It looks like the front of the Pentagon on 9/11 on a very, very, very small scale. I know that because I was a first responder to the Pentagon."
Shattered glass from the explosion injured eight Duke employees. After the explosion, the University initiated the relocation of 500 Duke employees who typically work downtown.
"Today has been a frightening and sad day for the city of Durham," Duke President Vincent Price wrote in a statement. "Our thoughts are with those who were injured—including eight Duke employees—and the family and friends of our fellow citizen who was killed."
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