Report released on cause of JJ’s fire

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Firefighters say the cause of the deadly blast and fire at JJ's restaurant on the Plaza was caused by an underground gas line being damaged that produced a natural gas release outside the restaurant.

The report called the incident an "accident."

RELATED: JJ's fire complete coverage

A pumper truck had been called to the restaurant earlier in the day on Feb. 19 with a "report of a gas leak." That's when a request was made to have the candles and pilot lights on the stove and water heater turned off "for the safety of people inside JJ's Restaurant," the report said.

Firefighters described a strong smell of gas throughout the restaurant at 5:04 p.m. Fire crews asked Missouri Gas Energy if there was anything they [firefighters] could do. MGE told firefighters "equipment was coming from Raymore" and that the situation was "under control," the report said.

The report revealed candles were put out, but the pilot lights remained lit on both the stove and water heater, despite being asked to be extinguished by the fire department earlier. The stove was turned off, the report said.

Fire crews left at 5:17 p.m.

When firefighters returned on scene at 6:08 p.m. they observed "evidence of an apparent explosion, a large body of fire" and "very little of the original building still standing."

Firefighters said flames shot up more than 100 feet in the air. Emergency responders reported "blue flames" coming from the ground on the west side of the building -- which indicated a natural gas leak.

Victims of the blast were in front of the restaurant lying on the ground or were in the process of leaving the burned out building on their own, the report said. Witnesses said there were more victims inside.

Seven people drove themselves to hospitals, the report said.

The report said sprinklers were working inside the restaurant during the fire.

While more crews were called to help battle the blaze, Missouri Gas Energy "opened the pavement in two locations to close a gas line that was feeding fires and hindering extinguishment," the report said.

All while this was going on, crews were looking for a victim, now known to be Megan Cramer, "without success." The report said conditions around them were deteriorating, with "waist-deep holes full of water" and "frigid conditions."

Around 2 a.m. on Feb. 20, firefighters said they suspended their search for Cramer. Her body was found later that morning near the bar under a collapsed roof, the report said.

A separate investigation into the cause of the natural gas line breach is currently being conducted by the Missouri Public Service Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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