PSNC still doesn’t know what ignited gas in fatal Durham explosion

North Carolina

In a report recently submitted to a federal agency, the Public Service Company of North Carolina says it’s still trying to determine what ignited the natural gas in an explosion that killed two in downtown Durham on April 10. 

The mandatory report, submitted on May 10 to the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, also shows the PSNC hasn’t been able to determine the exact number of injured and the exact time the gas line was damaged. 

WNCN obtained the report through a Freedom of Information Act request. 

The investigation by PSNC shows the line was punctured during a directional drilling operation. The gas line was found by the contractor that morning and the investigation hasn’t revealed whether the lines “were or were not marked accurately.”

At 9:11 a.m. on April 10, someone called 911 to report a strong smell of gas as they were driving through the intersection of North Duke and Morgan streets.

The contractor didn’t call in the puncture until 9:37 a.m. reporting they had struck a gas main at 115 N. Duke Street.

The report breaks down what occurred immediately following the contractor calling NC-811. 

  • The contractor notified NC-811, the state’s one-call office, of the damage at approximately 9:31 am.  
  • NC-811 in turn automatically generated a damage ticket which was delivered to PSNC at approximately 9:35 am.
  • An order was then automatically dispatched to PSNC’s first responder at approximately 9:36 am.  
  • The first responder reviewed the ticket at approximately 9:43 am and began heading to the site.    
  • PSNC received a call from 911 at approximately 9:48 am noting that the fire department was already on the scene.  

The explosion occurred at 10:07 a.m. – killing two and injuring more than a dozen more.

The report says PSNC believes somewhere between 17 and 25 were injured. 

Around 15 buildings in total were damaged by the explosion, PSNC’s report states. 

Another unknown is the cost of property damage, both to public property and to the gas system, but the report lists an estimated $20,023,301 in total damages.

The cost of the gas released following the rupture is $196 with a volume of 46 thousand cubic feet.  

“PSNC has had no known issues with the distribution system in this area in the recent past,” the report states.

PSNC’s investigation is ongoing.

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