Gas odor reported before blast leveled restaurant in Kansas City

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- One man says there'd been an odor of gas -- but "not strong" -- near JJ's restaurant in Kansas City for the past couple of weeks. And then, the odor got stronger yesterday.

Jeff Rogers was waiting at a bus stop down the street from the restaurant yesterday evening when an explosion knocked him to the ground. The explosion and a fire destroyed the restaurant, killing at least one person and injuring 15 others.

Hours before the explosion, witnesses reported a strong smell of gas. Firefighters were summoned to the scene at one point, but left without ordering an evacuation.

A doctor who works at a medical practice next to the restaurant told The Kansas City Star that a gas company employee entered the building just before 6 p.m. and recommended evacuating. The blast happened around 6, when the dinner crowd would have been filing into JJ's and the many other restaurants in the upscale shopping and dining district at Country Club Plaza.

It's not clear how hard firefighters or utility officials worked to evacuate the restaurant after gas was first noticed. The fire chief said the department deferred to the gas company because it would be better able to determine how serious the situation was.

(Copyright 2013, The Associated Press)

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