Second anniversary of Durham explosion observed quietly

Anthony Wilson Image
Saturday, April 10, 2021
Second anniversary of Durham explosion observed quietly
Saturday marks two years since the deadly natural gas explosion that rocked downtown Durham in 2019. Drive or walk along North Duke Street now and you'll notice reminders of the tragic day.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Drive or walk along North Duke Street where a natural gas explosion rocked downtown Durham in 2019, and you'll notice reminders of that tragic day.

Reg Turner remembers it well. We met him as he prepared meats inside a smoker for the menu at Maverick's.

"If we put smoked wings on it that's two or three hours. Smoked butt or whole hog, that's six to seven hours. So I'm gonna pull it up, everything is sort of smoky now," he said.

He also remembers how deadlier clouds of smoke hung in the air downtown two years ago, when something ignited what investigators called an accidental gas leak. The explosion killed two people and injured more than two dozen others.

"We just heard a boom! As my friend asked, are we in a war zone? It shook everything," he said.

Bus cams capture moment of Durham gas explosion.

One of the people killed, Kong Lee, owned a coffee shop inside the building where the blast happened.

"I only met the owner a few times, but when I met him he was pleasant," said Turner. "You know good people when you talk to 'em, and we sent our condolences to his family and everybody."

The blast also killed PSNC Energy worker Jay Rambeaut, and the force of the explosion affected all of the businesses that used to operate on or near the battered block. You see more reminders of the destruction across the street, where apartment windows blown out back then are repaired now.

Turner's aware of the sad anniversary as he does his best to coax potential diners to give Maverick's a try.

"We want see people happy! I'm praying and hoping that we get more people to come down and try our food out," he said. "We got good food!"

He and other workers at affected businesses are planning for the future while remembering one of the worst days in Durham history.