KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Olathe, Kan., contractor working near JJ's Restaurant at the time of the Feb. 19 deadly explosion said every safety measure was taken before his company started drilling.
To prove his point, Heartland attorney Brad Russell produced a photo showing all the site where the company was doing underground drilling had been marked by all utility companies to show the position of their underground lines.
"The reason we produced this photo was to address concerns that were raised initially that there weren't any markings and that the lines had not been properly located and we hope this photograph ensures people that we did address proper location of the lines," said Russell.
Heartland Midwest has come under fire for doing excavation work near the restaurant without a valid city permit Heartland was doing underground drilling near a gas line and city officials have determined that a build up of natural gas was the cause of the explosion that leveled the restaurant.
Although Heartland Midwest may have lacked a permit, Russell said the company followed all safety guidelines when it was drilling, including doing a procedure called pot holing where a high-powered hose cuts deep holes into the street to expose gas lines before drilling begins. Russell says white markings on the photo also show that Heartland was drilling at least foot deeper than where the gas line was located.
So why then did Heartland's own employee call 911 to report that he had struck a gas line?
"We were drilling in the area of the gas line and we smelled gas -- so I think he leapt to the conclusion that we struck the gas line," said Russell .
But Russell said that if the gas line had been struck where Heartland was digging, the gas most likely would have escaped through the holes Heartland had dug and not concentrated in JJ's Restaurant, causing the explosion.