Gas explosion, fire at JJ’s Restaurant; at least 15 injured, 1 missing

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One woman remains missing and 15 others were injured in a gas explosion at JJ’s Restaurant on the west side of the Country Club Plaza on Tuesday evening. The explosion was felt at least one block away and JJ’s Restaurant was destroyed.

At first authorities thought the explosion may have been caused by a car crash near the restaurant at 48th and Belleview, but they later said that wasn’t certain. Missouri Gas and Energy later released a statement that said in part, “Early indications are that a contractor doing underground work struck a natural gas line, but the investigation continues.”

It’s unknown how many people might have been inside at the time of the blast. At 10 p.m., firefighters said they were using cadaver dogs to check for the people unaccounted for, which at 6 a.m. Wednesday was one.

One man FOX 4’s Gia Vang talked to said he was planning to go to JJ’s Tuesday evening.

“We were just finishing up work, just about to leave the office … come over to JJ’s for a cocktail,” he said. “We heard the explosion. Some of the workers smelled gas in the restaurant so they got a lot of the patrons out. There were some workers in the restaurant when it exploded. We don’t know if anyone got out. I’m trying to call Jimmy, the owner.”

LIVE BLOG: Pictures, video & latest info. from the fire

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The University of Kansas Hospital has 5 victims, two were in critical condition. The hospital spokeswoman said the victims were being treated for heavy lacerations. Additional people may be transferred late Tuesday.

Two people are at St. Luke’s hospital with critical injuries, and an additional six people “walked in” to the hospital, they said.

“The one thing that we need to be concerned about are the people who were injured,” Kansas City Mayor Sly James said. “Secondly, the fire department and the first responders have done a remarkable job getting here and working on this,”

Residents in the Plaza were under mandatory evacuations Tuesday evening and could be gone until early Wednesday morning, according to police.

Witnesses describe the explosion “like an earthquake.” There were reports of windows blown out a block and a half away and some minor damage inside people’s apartments.

JJ’s opened its doors in 1985 this month, which would mark 28 years of being open.

Roanoke from Ward Parkway to 47th is expected to be closed on Wednesday.

Late Tuesday Missouri Gas Energy released the following statement:

Early this evening, a natural gas explosion occurred near the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.  Early indications are that a contractor doing underground work struck a natural gas line, but the investigation continues.

Emergency responders along with Missouri Gas Energy personnel are on site.  The area has been secured and the flow of gas has been stopped.   We do know that there have been injuries, however, at this time we do not have any details to provide.

We will continue to work with emergency responders and the appropriate authorities to continue to assess the situation and ensure that the area is safe.  We will provide updates as more information becomes available.

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