Investigators are trying to determine the exact cause of an explosion that leveled a multi-million Charlotte home and left surrounding structures condemned. On Tuesday, July 2, 2019 at approximately 2:00 p.m., Charlotte Fire Alarm received 911 calls reporting a large explosion at 11812 James Jack Way. Charlotte Fire Department Station 32 arrived on scene within minutes and discovered a home had been leveled following an explosion. A multiple alarm fire response was immediately activated for additional Charlotte Fire Department fire companies. A total of about 84 firefighters from Charlotte Fire Department responded to the scene. The home is located in the upscale Ballantyne Country Club in South Charlotte, North Carolina.
Fire officials said a male homeowner, later identified as Dr. Jebran Karam managed to dial 911 while trapped behind the rubble. Firefighters credit Karam with telling 911 dispatchers exactly where he was in the home. Firefighters and specially trained rescued personnel began a methodical and slow search through the mountains of debris to search for an additional person who was reported to be in the home at the time of the explosion.
Residents in the area say the couple that lived in the home was on vacation, but apparently returned home earlier that morning.
Charlotte Fire Department Battalion Chief Matt Westover said the homeowner Jebran Karam was able to communicate with firefighters through the entire incident. "He was able to guide us and help specify where he was located within the structure. He was able to let us know he could hear us operating outside." Westover added, "He was able to give us some direction to where his wife went during the incident.
It took about 7 hours from the start of the incident to locate and extricate the female victim from the pile of debris. Rania Karam, 58, the wife of the male victim has been identified as the female that was killed. Dr. Jebran Karam suffered what was considered "serious, life- threatening injuries" in the blast. He was airlifted by an Atrium Health MedCenter Air Medevac helicopter to Atrium Health Carolina's Medical Center. An EMS spokesperson said he was conscious and alert the entire time while being transported to the hospital.
Jebran Karam was identified as being a cardiologist in Beckley, West Virginia, and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the Beckley, WV, area. The couple was said to have lived in the home worth $1.2 million since 2015. The home was 6,500 square feet with 5 bedrooms and 5-1/2 baths.
A fire investigator not connected to the Ballantyne house explosion case says, "Worst single family natural gas explosion I've ever witnessed." He added, "This was a lot of natural gas in that house, no doubt about it."
The Charlotte Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has officials and investigators at the scene of this deadly house explosion. Investigators say they will likely take samples of gas, reconstruct the gas system for the home, and analyze the victims' injuries in order to better understand what happened.