Planning, training pay off in ER after Durham explosion

April 11, 2019

Durham leaders are attributing quick action by the fire department – both before and after a gas explosion on North Duke Street Wednesday – for the fact that only one person died in the blast. Similarly, recent training paid off in the emergency room at Duke University Hospital.

Kong Lee, 61, was inside his coffeeshop on the first floor of the Prescient building when it exploded. He was the only fatality.

Dozens were injured, and many of them were taken to Duke for treatment.

Critical Care Dr. Lisa Pickett said her staff were told to expect as many as 20 patients, and their training kicked in.

“Everyone was here and immediately ready to help,” she said. “We had the right people in the right place. And then we had a plan so everyone knew, and we could immediately pull together a command center.”

The timing of the emergency – as day and night shifts overlapped – meant many doctors were on hand.

Duke treated 10 people in the Emergency Department right after the incident, including six who were in critical condition.

Pickett said that although hospital staff had recently trained for such an emergency, the reality of dealing with emotional families of patients was the hardest part.

By day’s end on Thursday, two people remained in critical condition, two others had been upgraded to serious condition, one to good condition. The final of the original six was transferred to UNC Hospitals.