Skip to main content

2 missing, more than dozen injured in Kansas City gas explosion

By Steve Almasy, CNN
February 20, 2013 -- Updated 0717 GMT (1517 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Utility company said it appears contractor struck a gas line
  • Two people also missing, Kansas City fire department says
  • Witnesses say roof blew off restaurant
  • People in the area said they could smell gas well before explosion

See CNN affiliate coverage on KSHB, KCTV and KMBC

(CNN) -- Two people are missing and at least 14 people were injured when a gas line in Kansas City, Missouri, exploded and ignited a four-alarm fire, officials said Tuesday night.

The explosion apparently leveled JJ's restaurant, a popular spot in Country Club Plaza, an upscale shopping district and residential neighborhood that is a regional gathering place.

James Garrett, a spokesman for the Kansas City Fire Department, said three people were unaccounted for Tuesday night.

Missouri Gas Energy said: "Early indications are that a contractor doing underground work struck a natural gas line, but the investigation continues."

Witness: Kansas City fire was 'huge'

Mayor Sly James said the walls of the restaurant had collapsed.

Dr. Leonardo Lozada, the chief physician at St Luke's Health Systems, said he heard the explosion at the hospital, which is a block and a half from the restaurant.

"Yes, it was pretty loud. I just heard it; it wasn't that traumatic," he said, adding that some people told him they saw the roof blow off.

Officials at three hospitals indicated at least 14 people were hospitalized, including three in critical condition and three in serious condition.

The number of injured had dropped from previous reports because there was "a lot of confusion with people coming into the emergency room." Lozada told CNN.

Two patients are in critical condition at St. Luke's Hospital, said Dr. Marc Larsen. One of the patients suffered extensive burns; the other facial trauma, he said. Most of the five other patients suffered minor lacerations or inhalation injuries, he said.

Lozardo said one man had burns to "40% percent of his body, mostly to his lower extremities."

Garrett said here were no fatalities at the scene, but two of those hurt had life-threatening injuries.

About 100 fire fighters fought the fire before it was put out, fire chief Paul Berardi said.

When the first fire trucks arrived the restaurant was fully involved with a few people inside, he said.

Witness says man told her to leave restaurant

One witness told CNN affiliate KSHB a man who had a hand-held device came into the restaurant before the blast and told her and 10 others in JJ's to leave.

Jennifer Carter told the station that restaurant workers already had turned off the appliances because people inside had smelled gas.

She said she left when told and was a few blocks away when she heard the explosion.

Garrett confirmed that workers from Missouri Gas Energy were "on the scene" before the explosion.

Residents who live near JJ's said they reported smelling gas to the utility company about an hour before the explosion, according to CNN affiliate KCTV.

The explosion shook doors and windows at nearby businesses and homes, the station reported.

James, who came to the scene from his office, said his primary focus was the victims.

"That's the main concern, making sure they come out OK," he said.

Garrett said gas lines have been shut off.

"People are still not allowed back into the plaza," he said. "I don't know when it will reopen -- hopefully tonight."

CNN's Carma Hassan and Cristy Lenz contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0254 GMT (1054 HKT)
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0024 GMT (0824 HKT)
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0822 GMT (1622 HKT)
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2100 GMT (0500 HKT)
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
December 21, 2014 -- Updated 1746 GMT (0146 HKT)
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0251 GMT (1051 HKT)
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1701 GMT (0101 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT