CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Investigators said Wednesday that a home explosion in Charlotte’s Ballantyne neighborhood that left a woman dead and her husband seriously injured Tuesday was caused by an interior gas leak.
The explosion happened before 2 p.m. at a home on James Jack Lane, which is off Ballantyne Commons Parkway in Ballantyne Country Club. During the press conference on Wednesday, officials said they could not comment further on the interior gas leak, but did confirm that the man transported from home, Dr. Jabran Karam, told first responders that he did smell gas.
Rescue crews found Jabran’s wife, 58-year-old Rania Karam, at the home hours after the explosion. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Jabran Karam was was able to call 911 from the underneath wreckage using his Apple Watch and give crews information that allowed them to locate himself and his wife. He was airlifted to the hospital. His condition has not been released, but officials said he was alert and conscious when he was freed from the rubble.
It took nearly seven hours to find Rania Karam.
“It was a difficult process to locate her,” Charlotte Fire Department Battalion Chief Matt Westover said during a 10 p.m. press conference. “With the information we’ve been provided we are confident that we have retrieved all those that were involved in the incident.”
Soon after the explosion, multiple people reported debris striking surrounding homes.
From WBTV’s Sky3, the home appeared to be completely destroyed. Flames and smoke could be seen coming from the rubble and debris littered the area. Damage could be seen on the roofs of nearby homes.
“The whole house shook. Everything shook. The desk shook, the T.V. shook - I almost thought for a second it was an earthquake, or a car crashed into my house or a tree fell on my house,” one neighbor said. “We go outside, and everyone else is coming out of their houses, too, and they think the same thing we did - everyone thought a tree fell on their house."
“I am working literally across the golf course from the explosion, sounded like a bomb, shook the whole neighborhood,” said James Lyda Jr. "I honestly thought someone had fired a cannon for the Fourth - a really BIG cannon. But I lost my footing from the shockwave.”
The boom could reportedly be heard and felt almost five miles away.
More than 80 firefighters from multiple agencies responded to the scene. Piedmont Natural Gas officials said they were at the scene as well and working directly with Charlotte firefighters. Officials also determined that the pipelines in that area are operating.
“Currently, Piedmont Natural Gas is not planning to cut off natural gas service to the entire street where the tragic incident occurred. Our technicians tested and checked the Piedmont natural gas lines in the area, and no natural gas leaks on our lines were detected,” a spokesperson for Piedmont Natural Gas said Wedesday. “We’ve determined the Piedmont natural gas pipelines in this area are operating safely. The safety of this community is our highest priority.”