KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Peppered with questions from reporters Wednesday morning, Kansas City Mayor Sly James and Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi gave one answer loud and clear: the investigation is ongoing.
Minutes after recovery crews located the body of a woman in the rubble at the explosion site, the mayor and chief were questioned about the fire department’s response. One reporter asked if the fire department deferred the call to Missouri Gas and Energy.
“That investigation is ongoing,” Chief Berardi said. “I don’t want to speculate. All that information will come out.”
Mayor James emphatically reiterated what the chief said.
“It’s not a matter of deferring,” he said. “It’s a matter of knowing that there is a utility involved, there’s a gas line involved. Fire does not do gas. Missouri Gas and Energy does gas.
“Now I understand everybody wants to know what happened, wants to blame somebody. Everybody wants to know these details, but let me just assure you that’s not going to happen today.”
Related: Pictures from scene of explosion
Some witnesses reported smelling gas in the area as early as 4:30 p.m. When asked what time firefighters received the first call, Chief Berardi was hesitant to answer because he didn’t have the report in front of him but said it may have been around 5:15 p.m. The gas explosion occurred shortly after 6 p.m.
Minutes before the explosion, employees at JJ’s Restaurant and MGE were in the process of evacuating the building. It’s unclear how many people were in or near the restaurant at the time of the explosion.