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By Phil Helsel
in a gas line explosion that continues a downtown building that remained behind firefighters who evacuated property before the explosion, said city fire chief Thursday.
"All business people evacuate except the owner," Robert Durham Fire Chief Robert Zoldos said Thursday.
"The owner decided that he did not want to evacuate, the engine captain went to find a police officer to enforce the evacuation order and that was when the building collapsed and fell," said the fire chief. Kong Lee, 61, was the owner of the Kaffeinate coffee shop, police said.
The explosive force, which authorities said happened after a boring contractor on a sidewalk broke a gas line, felt or heard everything in c Witnesses said.
Search dogs were taken by breakup, but no other victims were found and no missing persons were reported, Zoldos said. The investigation continues, with the reason that the gas is burning, he said.
Authorities responded around 9:38 a.m. in a call to a gas odor and immediately started an evacuation of surrounding businesses, officials said. Explosion and fire occurred just after 10 am
Seventy people were injured in the blast, including nine firefighters, officials said.
The worst wounded firefighter, Darren Wheeler of the Durham Fire Department, has undergone surgery and is expected to be released from the hospital soon, Zoldos said.
Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson has an active permit to work at the location where the gas line is broken.
All other people, except Lee, who are inside the Kaffeinate when the gas detects the smell has been evacuated before the explosion, the fire chief said.
"She makes sure everyone is outdoors, everything is OK, and she does her job," said Jennifer Oldham, owner of a nearby business. NBC affiliate WRAL of Raleigh. "We were only disappointed with that family and her children."