The investigation into the blast and fire that rocked the Country Club Plaza and destroyed JJ’s Restaurant has entered a new phase.
“The people stage has basically concluded,” said Kansas City Mayor Sly James. “We are now moving into that part of the investigation about what caused the explosion.”
We know what caused the gas leak: a crew laying fiber-optic cable accidently pushed the cable into a two-inch gas main just before five o’clock Tuesday evening. A lot of attention will focus on what happened between then and 6:04, when JJ’s blew up.
“Pumper 19 returned to service”
The cable crew, part of Heartland Midwest, 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,” says Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi. “They returned to service, they were available for service.”
Mayor James says the gas company would have jurisdiction in this kind of situation. MGE quickly brought a backhoe in and tried to open up the street over where they thought the main was broken, the idea being to vent and dilute the gas. 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, killing one and injuring at least 15 people.
James cautions not to assign blame for the disaster too early. The facts will come out, he says, but not necessarily any time soon.