At least 1 dead, 17 injured in Durham building gas explosion

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DURHAM, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - A firefighter and a Dominion Energy employee are among the people injured in gas explosion that also killed one person in downtown Durham.

Durham EMS Assistant Chief Lee Van Vleet told a news conference a total of 17 people were hospitalized after the Wednesday morning blast that partially collapsed a building and set it on fire.

The man who died has been identified as 61-year-old Kong Lee. He was the owner of nearby coffee shot Kaffeinate. 

An emergency official says six of the people injured were critically hurt and one of them has been transferred to the burn unit.

City officials said 11 people were taken to Duke University Medical Center and four were taken to Duke Regional Hospital for treatment. Their conditions weren't immediately available.

The Wednesday morning explosion partially collapsed a building and set it on fire.

Durham Fire Chief Robert Zoldos was one of the first responders after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and told reporters the building now looks like the Pentagon did after terrorists crashed a passenger jet into it.

Durham Police Department public affairs manager Wil Glenn said a contractor digging under a sidewalk hit a 2-inch gas line, triggering the explosion.

Eyewitnesses said they thought a bomb had gone off or an earthquake had hit after the gas explosion

The City of Durham tweeted Wednesday that people should avoid the area of Duke and Morgan streets.

Durham School of the Arts, which is located near the explosion site, dismissed classes for the day.

This is a developing story. Stay with FOX 46 for updates.The Associated Press contributed to this report.