At least four people died and five people were injured after an explosion leveled a gas station near Winterplace ski resort this morning. A firefighter and a paramedic were among the injured at the Flat Top Lakefront Grocery on Route 19, said Kim O’Brien, spokeswoman for the state Fire Marshal’s office, who provided the casualty figures.
An emergency services supervisor says a leak had been reported, authorities suspect that a propane tank exploded at about 10:45 a.m., just as a fire truck was pulling into the station in response to a report of a leak. The cause of the explosion has not been determined. O’Brien said she’s not sure whether it was a propane tank or a liquid petroleum tank that exploded. All that’s left of the building is a pile of debris, twisted metal framework and a sign showing the price of gasoline starting at $2.19 a gallon.
Five people were taken to Raleigh General Hospital for treatment, a spokeswoman said. At least three fire departments, 15 ambulances, officials with county and State Police, the Division of Highways and regional response teams were dispatched to the scene. Route 19 was blocked to traffic following the explosion, which was felt at least a mile away.
“I thought we got struck by lightning. The whole building shook. The power went off,” said Ben Monast, manager of The Ski Shop. The manager of a nearby store says the whole building shook and the power went off. He thought it was a lightning strike.