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‘It sounded like a bomb going off’: Officers and neighbors describe moments after explosion at Chadbourn motel

‘It sounded like a bomb going off’: Officers and neighbors describe moments after explosion at Chadbourn motel
Published: May. 18, 2022 at 10:36 PM EDT
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CHADBOURN, N.C. (WECT) - The Budget Inn in Chadbourn went up in flames after an explosion inside early Wednesday morning. Fire officials determined the explosion was from a gas leak.

Chadbourn mayor Philip Britt and his wife Shannon live just across the parking lot from the Budget Inn. They say their house shook when the explosion happened, and Philip said his alarm clock fell off of his bedside table.

Around 430 this morning I woke up and I was getting ready to get out of bed and heard what sounded like an explosion. I came out onto the porch, looked over towards the building-- when I initially looked over it looked like maybe there was one small fire, about the size of a basketball,” Britt said. “You could see a big hole on the side of the building. It looked like a vehicle had actually driven through the building.”

But minutes later, that all changed as Britt says the fire spread quickly and the building when up in flames.

“I was sitting on the other end of town and I heard a loud explosion. I [came] out on the street and I [saw] a bunch of smoke at that point,” Chadbourn Police officer Johnathan Driggers said.

Officer Driggers was one of the first people on the scene. As soon as he got there he searched to see if anyone survived the blast.

“The gentleman was at the front of the building. [I] pretty much drug him away, back to safety, until EMS could arrive,” Driggers said. “You don’t know what you’re gonna do until you get there. I just did what anybody would do. I took an oath to protect and serve, so I just went about my way and done what I need to do.”

Officer Driggers and the Britts worked to fight the flames until fire crews arrived.

Mayor Britt says Officer Driggers’ actions helped save one man’s life, and quick response from other crews kept things from getting worse.

“To give you a magnitude, that blew one of the doors from the hotel across the street in front of the Napa [Auto Parts]. The fact that there wasn’t more loss of life or more people burned is an act of God, that we didn’t have more trauma here than what there was,” Britt said.

Now there are only crumbles of what used to be a two-story cinderblock building.

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