CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A woman was killed and her husband seriously injured when an explosion destroyed a home in Ballantyne Tuesday afternoon.
The explosion happened before 2 p.m. at a home on James Jack Lane, which is off Ballantyne Commons Parkway in Ballantyne Country Club. Rescue crews found the wife, identified as 58-year-old Rania Karam, at the home hours after the explosion. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Rania’s husband, Jabran Karam, was also inside the home at the time of the explosion. Officials said he was able to call 911 from the underneath wreckage using an Apple Watch and give crews information that allowed them to locate himself and his wife.
Jabran Karam 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.
“We were deeply saddened to hear about this incident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Karam family during this difficult time," said Cheryl Mitchem, with Raleigh General Hospital where Jabran Karam worked. "Dr. Jebran Karam is a tremendous cardiologist, physician and advocate for his patients. We wish him a full and fast recovery.”
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.”
Earlier, at 6:45 p.m., officials tweeted that they were using specialized listening equipment and confined space cameras during the search efforts. A no-fly zone was established to reduce noise in the area.
Around 8:30 p.m., officials said Mecklenburg EMS treated seven firefighters on scene with IVs. Those firefighters went back to work. One firefighter was taken to a local hospital for dehydration.
Soon after the explosion, multiple people reported debris striking surrounding homes.
Medic confirmed they evaluated two patients with non life-threatening injuries from surrounding homes. It is unclear exactly how they were injured and their names have not been released.
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.
By 3:30 p.m., more than 80 firefighters from multiple agencies had responded to the scene. Officials said during a press conference just before 4 p.m. that nearby homes were searched and deemed safe.
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 Wednesday. “We’ve determined the Piedmont natural gas pipelines in this area are operating safely. The safety of this community is our highest priority.”
Officials said the day after the incident that the explosion was caused by an “interior gas leak."