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CHAPEL HILL — A Creedmoor utility worker who was injured in April in a gas explosion in downtown Durham has died.
UNC hospitals confirmed last week the death of Jay Rambeaut, a Dominion Energy employee. Rambeaut had been a patient at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill, the hospital said.
Dominion Energy said in a statement on April 25 that Rambeaut had died overnight.
He worked as a locator and first responder who investigated situations when things when wrong, the company said. He joined the company in 1988.
He was in critical condition following the April 10 explosion that killed one other person and injured 25 others, including nine firefighters, according to Durham authorities.
Rambeaut was first taken to Duke Trauma Center at Duke University Hospital, his sister-in-law, Donna Jackson, told the Butner-Creedmoor News. He went into cardiac arrest and he had as many as 150 holes in his chest caused by debris in the explosion, as well as fractured bones, severe burns, and injuries to his brain.
After a week and a half at Duke, he transferred to the burn center, although he remained unconscious. The family, thinking the worst was behind them, believed he would survive.
Then, the day before he died, his condition suddenly worsened, Jackson said. It appeared he had an infection, and his blood pressure and heart rate declined.
“It was kind of like a sucker punch, the second time, several weeks after the explosion,” Jackson said. The sudden decline was unexpected, she added.
Still, she thanked the police and fire first responders who pulled Rambeaut from the rubble, saving his life and giving the family two extra weeks with him.
Called to the scene
Jackson said her brother-in-law was often called to turn off a gas line after a leak. That’s what happened on the day of the explosion, when a contractor struck a gas line in downtown Durham.
Rambeaut was standing in front of the building that exploded when it blew up, she said. The family is still not sure why he was standing there at that time.
Jackson said she realized Rambeaut was injured when she saw his utility truck on TV parked in front of the scene.
She said the family hadn’t considered Rambeaut’s job dangerous before the explosion because he never talked about the risks.
“This job can be dangerous, and Jay demonstrated the skill and courage this job requires,” said Tom Farrell, Dominion Energy CEO, in a statement the day after the death. “I ask you to keep his family in your thoughts. I know I will say an extra prayer tonight.”
Jackson said the only safety gear Rambeaut usually wore to a scene of a gas leak was a safety hat. She said she hoped his death may change how utility workers are protected.
“I think if anything positive comes out of this right now, it’s if the gas companies ... will see the first responders like Jay will need the protective equipment everybody else has, like firefighters,” Jackson said. “If he’s doing a job listed as dangerous, then he should have equipment to keep him safe.”
Typical country guy
Rambeaut was a husband and father who always put family first, Jackson said.
His son, Craig, 19, and wife of more than 30 years, Lisa, are left to carry on without him.
He also leaves behind a brother, Glen, and sisters Darlene and Liz.
“Jay was a typical family boy country guy,” Jackson said.
He would hold family cookouts and lend his lawn mower whenever needed, she said. Following an ice storm a couple of years ago, Rambeaut brought a chainsaw to clear Jackson’s yard of fallen trees and limbs, she said.
Rambeaut and his wife were high school sweethearts.
The Creedmoor community has rallied around the Rambeaut family, offering to wash cars, clean pollen off their porches, make food and help with other tasks.
The support has been incredible, Jackson said.
“We have been humbled and in awe of the community support — and from people we don’t even know, too,” Jackson said.
More than $23,000 has been raised for the family on GoFundMe. Donations can be made at gf.me/u/sfrks4.