CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Fire Department has released the nearly hour-long 911 call made by a man trapped underneath the rubble after his Ballantyne home exploded, injuring him and killing his wife.
The $1.2 million house on James Jack Lane was reduced to a pile of rubble after exploding July 2.
After the explosion, Chopper 9 flew over the scene and saw flames and smoke rising from the debris pile. Wood and insulation were scattered at the site, and debris was blown into the adjacent street, as well as into some surrounding trees and nearby yards.
Jebran Karam called 911 using his smartwatch.
Over and over again during the call, he told dispatchers he was calling out for his wife, Rania Karam, but she was not responding.
"We were downstairs because we smelled something wrong, and she went down and I went to follow her," Jebran Karam told dispatchers. "And all of a sudden, I heard an explosion that threw me away, and then, the stairs all came on me."
He said he and his wife had just gotten back from vacation when the explosion happened, but officials said there was a significant rise in natural gas before July 2 -- the day of the explosion.
During the 911 call, Jebran Karam told dispatchers he couldn't move.
"I'm trapped under a lot of four-by-four and sheet rock. I have all the ceiling on top of me," Jebran Karam said. "I can see the daylight. I can see the sky and I'm waving with a stick."
Throughout the 911 call, Jebran Karam was able to direct rescue crews through the rubble, so they could find him and the body of his wife Rania Karam.
Charlotte Fire investigators determined the explosion at the home was "accidental."
Since there was a significant rise in natural gas before the day of the explosion, this indicated a leak inside the house.
Charlotte Fire said the house was likely filled with natural gas and ignited within minutes of the Karams coming home from vacation.
Jebran Karam was flown to a hospital with serious injuries after the explosion. Firefighters said he was conscious and alert after the explosion and was able to call 911 to help rescue crews find him.
Rania Karam was killed in the explosion.
Investigators said they were not able to determine the specific cause or piece of equipment involved in the leak. They also could not identify an ignition source.
Insurance carriers and specialty engineers are expected to continue with an outside investigation. Charlotte Fire said crews will use forensic testing and examine the natural gas equipment from the house.
Officials said the process could take several months in order to get a detailed analysis.
On Wednesday, specialty engineers could be seen from Chopper 9 Skyzoom pulling natural gas equipment from the house and taking pictures, examining it to find out where the leak came from.
Neighbors said despite Charlotte Fire's investigation, they want to know more.
Channel 9's Tina Terry spoke with neighbor Renee Lim, whose house was damaged in the explosion. He said he didn't suspect anything.
"You hear a loud explosion, next thing you know the house is gone," Lim said. "Being so close, I didn't smell anything, so I didn't suspect anything. I walk the streets all the time with my dogs. Personally, I had my gas lines checked by a certified engineer just to make sure."
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