Questions About Evacuation Prior To KC Explosion

Feb 21, 2013

The Mayor of Kansas City says the search for bodies is over and the search for a cause of the Plaza explosion has begun. One person died in the blast, at least 15 were injured.   

The time line of Tuesday night’s blaze raises questions about how quickly JJ’s Restaurant was evacuated before the tragedy.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James says the recovery turned a corner yesterday afternoon.

“The people stage has basically concluded, we are now moving into that part of the investigation about what caused the explosion,” James said.

A crew laying fiber for a cable hit a 2 inch wide gas pipeline near JJ’S just before 5 Tuesday evening.   They called the fire department, which mounted an emergency response, and got a truck, Pumper 19, to the restaurant 10 minutes later. Missouri Gas Energy’s first emergency responder got there at 5:16, but then something hard to explain happened.

“At 5:17 Pumper 19 returned to service,” Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi said.

Berardi says that means the crew withdrew from the situation. The fire department responded in emergency mode, but backed off, the minute a first responder from the gas company arrived. MGE quickly brought a backhoe in and tried to open up the street over where they thought the main was broken… idea being to vent, and dilute the gas. Not 20 minutes after that operation got underway the restaurant erupted.

Mayor James says the gas company would have jurisdiction in this kind of situation. Ultimately, someone from MGE did give the order to evacuate the restaurant, but several workers were inside the building when it blew up at 6:04.