Body found in search for missing woman in JJ’s Restaurant explosion

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Crews recovered a body from the rubble at JJ's Restaurant Wednesday morning. The body was located in the bar area of the restaurant. A recovery effort began at 7:30 a.m. for a female employee of JJ's Restaurant who had been reported missing after the blast. Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi said they have not yet identified the remains, but a source close to the investigation told FOX 4 the body was that of a woman.

Fifteen others were injured -- some critically -- in the explosion that rocked the west side of the Country Club Plaza Tuesday evening. The blast was felt at least a block away, shattering windows and shaking nerves of many in the area. Some said their first thought was that a bomb had exploded. Firefighters spent 50 minutes battling the blaze.

During Wednesday's news conference, Chief Berardi and Mayor said their first concern is the people who were injured and the lone missing woman.

"The debris that is on the scene is too heavy for individuals," Mayor James said. "We have to get some heavy equipment to move it, and that’s not something you do willy-nilly in the middle of the night in the dark. You can do more damage with heavy equipment than you might think."

Chief Berardi said he has been in touch with the missing woman's family.

"Our sympathy goes out to them," he said. "We know this is a difficult time for them to wait through this process, and while we do have people on the scene right now, we know we’ve done what we can to search that immediate area with cadaver dogs.

"This is going to be a long, arduous task to sift through the rubble carefully so we don’t do any additional damage and we respect what remains we may find in there.”

While Berardi said the investigation into the blast continues, Missouri Gas and Energy released a statement Tuesday night stating in part, "Early indications are that a contractor doing underground work struck a natural gas line, but the investigation continues."

Prior to the explosion, some had reported smelling gas in the area. One man who lived in a nearby apartment complex said his building manager said there was nothing to worry about.

"No sooner than when he shut the door, we heard a massive explosion," he said. "Sure enough, we come outside and right behind our building JJ's steakhouse is up in flames."

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.

Many who live nearby JJ's were out Wednesday morning, walking around the area to see the damage.

"I'm actually kind of surprised that there isn't more damage," said a resident named Jennifer. "There's only a couple buildings on that new building that are blown out. I would have expected almost the whole face of the building blown out, the way it felt.

"It was a concussion explosion. You felt it much more so than you could hear it."

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