Dozens gather to remember victims of Durham gas explosion
A candlelight vigil on Tuesday was held to show support for those impacted by last week’s explosion in downtown Durham.
The April 10 blast happened near Kaffeinate coffee shop on North Duke Street, killing its owner, Kong Lee, 61.
The explosion also left 25 people injured, including nine firefighters. The blast happened as emergency responders were trying to evacuate buildings after a reported gas leak, The News & Observer has reported.
The vigil was held the same day the City of Durham released new details about the emergency response to the gas leak that triggered the explosion. According to the city, a 911 call was placed at 9:11 a.m. to report the strong smell of gas, according to The News & Observer.
But after firefighters searched the area, they couldn’t detect the smell, the report said. Firefighters responded again after a contractor called 911 at 9:37 a.m. and evacuated people in nearby buildings. The explosion happened at 10:07 a.m.
At the vigil near the blast site, Tai Renwei Chung said Lee was a “pillar” in the community, reports ABC11, The News & Observer’s media partner. He lives in the West Village apartments.
“I think his modus operandi was really a textbook case on how you foster and promote a community of diversity and inclusion,” Chung said, according to ABC11. “He was very intentional on how he promoted such a welcoming atmosphere.”
He wrote a column in The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun last week to pay tribute to the coffee shop owner.
“Mr. Lee was a fatherly figure in the community, and I considered him family,” he wrote.
Jennifer Oldham of the nearby Mid-South Fencers’ Club “is trying to get her fencing club back to normal” after the explosion knocked down the business’ lights, according to ABC11.
“Everyone wants to help, and everyone wants to connect,” Oldham told ABC11. “And that’s been something really positive.”