A gas explosion in a shopping district of Kansas City, Missouri, resulted in a huge blaze. At least 14 people sustained injuries and authorities are still checking for fatalities. At time of writing two people are in a critical condition in St Luke's Hospital, reports the BBC. The Kansa City Star has the number of injured as at least 16.
The blast occurred around 6pm local time in the 48th Street and Belleview region which is a busy shopping area. The explosion at "JJ’s, at 910 W. 48th St. just west of the Plaza" shock the area.
A lawyer working in a nearby building reports “It sounded like thunder, but it felt like an earthquake.” The force of the blast was felt up to a mile away and windows were blown out of buildings up to half a mile away.
Although there are no reports of fatalities searchers brought "cadaver dogs to the scene to explore the ruins".
The explosion is now thought to have resulted from a contractor working in the area. Missouri Gas Energy issued a statement saying “early indications are that a contractor doing underground work struck a natural gas line, but the investigation continues.”
Customers at the restaurant, JJ's, have been recalling events. There was a smell of gas and staff were in the process of evacuating and turning off gas supplies when literally the roof fell in. The massive explosion blew the front of the restaurant away and some of the injured simply walked through this space.
At least three people are unaccounted for, hence the "sniffer dogs".
Construction workers were clearing the area and investigating the smell of gas when the explosion struck. The Missouri Public Service Commission will launch a full investigation into the incident.
100 firefighters attended the blaze and by 8pm the gas supply was shut off and the fire under control.
A frightening incident but one that could have been so much worse. If the restaurant had been busy, or the explosion struck without warning, it could have been a very different scenario.
Such events are often a wake up call. One minute you are happily going about your day-to-day life and the next you could be caught up in a tragedy.
The investigation must get to the bottom of what happened. Yes, accidents do happen but such a potentially damaging incident should be prevented from happening again if possible.
The owner of JJ's, Jimmy Frantze, was driving back to Kansas City when his restaurant exploded. He said “It was 28 years of a great restaurant, and then it has to end like this. I want to check on my employees. I want to make sure they are all right.”
At least he has his priorities right. In the end the rest is bricks and mortar. It is people who matter.