After three months of investigating, the City of Durham Fire Department has ruled the April 10 explosion in downtown Durham an accident in its Origin and Cause Investigation Report.
The explosion, which destroyed the building at 115 North Duke Street, caused 25 injuries and two deaths–including the death of Kong Lee, owner of coffee shop Kaffeinate. Natural gas leakage from a “horizontal boring operation” led to the explosion.
“This breach allowed fugitive gas to flow until reaching an ignition source, at which time an explosion occurred resulting in severely damaged and destroyed buildings,” the investigative report found.
Around 9 a.m., a crew from Optic Cable Technology breached a natural gas service line while they were drilling. No one from the crew called 911 about the leak, the report found. However, the report found that Lee appeared to know about the gas leak soon after the breach.
Two passersby did make 911 calls in the next hour after smelling gas in the area. Emergency responders came to evacuate Kaffeinate.
A little after 10 a.m., the explosion struck, destroying the building and killing Lee and Dominion Energy employee Jay Rambeaut. It damaged multiple Duke office buildings downtown, causing 10 employee injuries.
Investigators found “no evidence to indicate that any person had acted intentionally to create a fire or explosion at 115 North Duke Street” and concluded that there was no criminal intent.