A company called Fiber Technologies Networks held the only active permit for utility work in the area of an explosion triggered near downtown Durham Wednesday when a contractor struck a gas line, according to city officials. 

City officials have not yet identified any subcontractors that may have been actually installing fiber cables in the North Duke Street area. Crown Castle, which owns Fiber Technologies Networks LLC declined to name the contractor it hired, citing ongoing investigation into the incident.  

“We are devastated by this tragic event and its impact on the Durham community,” Cathy Piche, area president of Crown Castle, said in a statement. “We grieve the loss of life and our continued prayers go out to the people who were injured and their families. We are grateful for the first responders whose brave actions saved lives. Fibertech Networks, which is owned by Crown Castle, hired a contractor who was installing fiber in the area prior to the incident. We have offered our full support and cooperation to Durham city officials. We are committed to working with the Mayor’s office to help the community recover.”

According to Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson, a Charlotte-based engineering firm called Utilis submitted the permit on the company’s behalf, meaning it is responsible for overseeing any subcontractors and ensuring compliance with the work permit and a license agreement with the city. Ferguson said Fiber Technologies Networks had a valid license agreement with the city that was approved in 2016.

City officials said additional documents attached to the permit – as well as the 911 call reporting the initial gas leak – would be released.

The company’s permit to install fiber cables was issued on June 27, 2018, and is valid through June 25, 2019, and allows the company to bore into the sidewalk. The company was authorized to work along Duke Street and Main Street, as well as parts o Roxboro, Mangum, Great Jones, Market, Chapel Hill, Foster, Corcorian and Morgan streets and Rigsbee Avenue. A map on Crown Castle’s website shows the company’s fiber network around downtown Durham:

A copy of the permit says the reason for the work is to “connect cell tower to aerial antenna poles.” According to Crown Castle’s website, it acquired rights to AT&T and T-Mobile towers in 2012. Crown Castle, according to its website, is the “nation’s largest provider of shared communications infrastructure” and has about 65,000 miles of fiber.

Investigators have not yet determined what ignited the gas, causing one death and at least twenty-five injuries. The blast leveled a building at 115 North Duke Street, which housed the Kaffeinate coffee shop on its first floor. The shop’s owner, Kong Lee, was killed in the explosion. 

Firefighters began evacuating the coffee shop once they arrived on the scene following a report of the gas leak. Eight to ten people were evacuated before the blast. Lee was inside when the explosion occurred and was last seen by first responders in the doorway of the shop.

“The owner decided he did not want to evacuate,” Fire Chief Robert Zoldos told reporters Thursday afternoon. “Our engine captain went to find a police officer to enforce that evacuation order and that’s when the building collapsed.”

In addition to 115 North Duke Street, 806 West Main Street – home to St. James Seafood – has been condemned, said Zoldos. Torreros, the former Triangle Brewing and a Duke office location at 710 West Main Street do not have occupancy permits.

This is a developing story. 

One reply on “Fiber Company Had Permit to Dig Near Explosion Site”

  1. Friend or foe, fiber optic net works are being put in by Contractors, sob- contractors, independent contractors, and perhaps even disgruntle employees throughout the United States. We don’t know, who’s doing what. Do we want religious chants, as free speech? They do in N.Y.
    These contractors, they often have no uniforms, no badges, unmarked vans, trucks.
    To take down a city, State or Country, just contol their media.


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