A Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant on NC Hwy. 14 exploded at roughly 12:20 a.m. completely destroying the fast food restuarant's structure and broadcasting structural debris a quarter mile up the highway.
“I was driving by when it exploded,’’ said Ed McCain, manager of the local Papa John’s pizza delivery restaurant, who was heading home from a late shift. “It shook my car like you wouldn’t believe, but there were no flames,’’ said McCain, 38, who caught a $10 bill as it wafted over his Mitsubishi Outlander. “I was freaking out and I just pulled over in the Sheetz parking lot. I’m just happy to be alive.’’
Eden Police Chief Greg Light, who was on the scene with firefighters said there are no casualties and no suspicion of foul play.
“We’ve called in the ATF from Greensboro and officials from the gas company are on the scene,’’ Light said.
Residents from as far away as Draper and Ridgeway, Virginia, reported feeling a quake at the time of the explosion. Randy East was sitting outside the Sheetz across the street when the building combusted.
“I was setting a cup of coffee down, getting ready to say something, and it blew the cup of coffee out of my hand,’’ said East, who was taking an evening break at a picnic table in front of Sheetz opposite KFC. “It sounded like a 155 round went off.’’
“I took a sip out of my coffee and looked up and went to put my coffee down and it (coffee) blew up … and it come up, and you could see the roof opening up,’’ East said of the KFC, left hollow with splintered lumber and roofing splayed in the ruins.
“We was talking to a guy who was supposed to be over there in the morning at 9:30 to show up for work, and it wasn’t four or five minutes later and I looked across the there (road) and there was nothing pulled in or anything like that,’’ said East, who spent 20 years working in the natural gas industry.
“It wasn’t a bomb,’’ East said. “It was a gas explosion. It was one massive boom where the gas built up in a pocket.’’
“My trailer was just shaking,’’ said, Joshua Harris of Eden, who was relaxing in his mobile home on Kennedy Street about one block away. “It was a big boom."
Spectators who flocked to scene shortly after, reported a strong smell of natural gas, though Light could not yet say whether the fuel had demolished the building.
One of Eden’s oldest restaurants, King’s Inn pizza parlor, sustained damage to its trademark stained glass window from the concussive force. Owners said the eatery will be up and running on Thursday, despite the damage.
Shortly after his shift, Christian Jarrett ended his evening shift at Eden’s KFC at around 11 p.m. Wednesday night. Roughly 90 minutes later, an explosion had reduced his workplace to rubble.
The 21-year-old made a chance stop at the Sheetz convenience store opposite KFC, that Jarrett realized his place of employment on Van Buren Avenue was destroyed.
Currently, the north and south bound lanes of Van Buren Road / Highway 14 between Moore Street and Stadium Drive are closed.
This roadway will be closed for an extended period of time. Please avoid the area if possible.
Officials are early in their investigation and there are no further details at this time.