Feb. 19 at 6:05 p.m. an explosion rocked the Country Club Plaza.
Caller: (Call breaks up) "We've got a fire and we've got casualties."
Dispatcher: "OK, we got…we got units on the way there. Can you tell me what happened?"
Caller: "There was just an explosion. It was a gas explosion and the fire is blazing."
Dispatcher: "Bad explosion? OK."
Caller: "It was in the kitchen at JJ's restaurant."
Dispatcher: "OK. Gas explosion in the kitchen."
Dispatcher: "Can you tell me how many people are hurt right now, ma'am?"
Caller: (Call breaks up) "There was staff inside and I'm not sure how many got out. I don't know how many are still in there. Two came out."
The blast happened more than an hour after a Heartland Midwest construction crew, working for Time Warner Cable, hit a gas pipeline. Witnesses recalled the runup to the explosion.
"The construction guys that were working outside. We were like, ‘Hey, we smell gas' and even cars were driving by were like, ‘Hey, we smell gas.' They were just, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah,'" said Dr. John Verstraete of the Plaza Physicians Group back on Feb. 20, 2013.
During that time the gas drifted from the broken Missouri Gas Energy line into the popular restaurant.
"They said, ‘Well because of the smell in here you guys should really leave.' So that's why we were packing up to leave. They didn't make it sound like you need to get out this second, so we were kind of taking our time, putting things away, locking up the register and then, boom. And everything was black," said Deidre Estes, a JJ's hostess, on Feb. 20, 2013.
The next day crews were in recovery mode, searching the site for one unaccounted employee. The body of 46-year-old server Megan Cramer was found beneath the rubble.
"I know the important thing is she loved and she was loved," said Carter Cramer, her father, during a service to remember her on March 4, 2013.
Almost immediately Kansas City, MO, Mayor Sly James faced a barrage of questions. A paperwork problem at City Hall caused confusion about whether Heartland Midwest had a permit to dig at the Plaza. In fact, Heartland Midwest did not have a permit. They had applied for one 13 days before, but the fax didn't go through at City Hall.
There is now a new system in place.
Three weeks after the blast, a first department report called the explosion an accident caused by the gas leak and a still-lit pilot light.
A month after the tragedy, the first of many lawsuits was filed by six JJ's workers against MGE, Heartland Midwest and Time Warner Cable, among others.
JJ's owner Jimmy Frantze filed his own suit against the same players.
"I'm working a situation I really can't quite comprehend yet. I'm dealing with it and trying to get through it," he said on Feb. 20, 2013.
But in August, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) put some of the blame on Frantze, fining him $2,000 for failing to give his employees an evacuation plan.
But the major citations were handed out to Heartland Midwest, which received $161,000 in fines for several infractions, including employees who weren't qualified or trained to operate drilling equipment.
Since then, all the players have been in a holding pattern, waiting for the final report.
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