Search and rescue to continue after Durham gas explosion killed 1, injured 17

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DURHAM, N.C. — Crews will return the site of a fatal gas explosion to continue search and rescue efforts Thursday, the morning after the tragic event.

The explosion happened shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday at 115 North Duke Street when a contractor hit a gas line.

That contractor was hired by Kaffeinate coffee shop and did receive the required permits before beginning work, according to North Carolina 811 Executive Director Louis Panzer.

The explosion killed one person, injured 17 others and took down a building in downtown Durham on Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday night, Durham officials identified 61-year-old Kong Lee, the owner of Kaffeinate Coffee Shop, as the person killed in the blast.

The shop's website says he moved to North Carolina in 1993 and has been part of of the Triangle community for two decades.

Hundreds have commented on social media saying Lee had a kindess and compassion that made people's day.

One Durham firefighter was seriously injured but did not suffer life-threatening injuries. The Professional Fire Fighters of Durham tweeted Wednesday evening, "In true firefighter fashion, our brother is cutting up and in good spirits after surgery!"

A Dominion Energy employee was also injured in the explosion.

"We've had a terrible tragedy today. ... I feel a real sense of loss and grief," Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said at a Wednesday press conference.

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