By Nathan Ham
A landslide on Pine Ridge Road in the Heavenly Mountain Community claimed the lives of two people inside the home.
The area is located about nine miles from downtown Boone.
Sergeant Shane Robbins, speaking on behalf of the Boone Fire Department, confirmed the deaths in a news release Thursday morning.
According to Robbins, Boone Fire responded to a report of a landslide into a house, resulting in “catastrophic destruction of the structure” from a gas leak just after 5 p.m. Wednesday evening. Two people were reported to be in the structure at the time of the incident.
Robbins said that there appeared to be a gas build up from the leak and an ignition source of some kind set off an explosion.
Search and rescue operations were initiated once Boone Fire arrived on scene. The two victims were located deceased in the rubble.
Robbins said the names of the victims have not been released yet pending notification of next of kin. There were no other occupants in the home.
The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office will be conducting the death investigation.
“We would like to thank everyone that responded to help during this tragic event,” Robbins said.
Some of the agencies that responded to the incident were Boone Fire Department, Boone Police Department, Blowing Rock Fire Department, Blowing Rock Police Department, Watauga Sheriff’s Office, Watauga Medic, Watauga Rescue, Watauga County Emergency Management, Watauga County Communications, Boone Public Works, Blowing Rock Public Works, Red Cross, Foscoe Fire Department, Cove Creek Fire Department, Linville Central Rescue Squad, Fleetwood Fire Department, Champion Fire Department, Caldwell County Emergency Services, Lenoir Fire Department, Clairmont Fire Department, Alexander County Rescue Squad and Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Taskforce – Buncombe County.
Heavy rain across Watauga County and the rest of western North Carolina has caused several landslides and flooding incidents across the area. Governor Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency for the western portion of the state on Wednesday. Five people have now died in the last week as results of the heavy rains. In addition to the two deaths in Watauga County on Wednesday night, a woman was killed in a mudslide last Friday in Polk County and WYFF-TV anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer were killed on Monday after a tree fell across the road onto their vehicle also in Polk County as they were working on a story about the weather impacts in the area.
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