At least one explosion thundered through the west edge of the County Club Plaza district just after 6 p.m. Tuesday, sending more than a dozen people to hospitals. Some are critically injured. There was ample evidence pointing to natural gas as cause.
Two hours after fire took what was left of the explosion-ripped building, the smell of gas was rich in the nostrils. As many as five hours before the explosion tore apart JJ’s Restaurant, there were accounts of people smelling natural gas in the area, around and to the east of the popular gathering spot.
Missouri Gas Energy had troubleshooters in the area, and firefighters had been called as a precaution. An adjacent medical office was evacuated shortly before the restaurant blew up.
Jon Kot was in a meeting at the Polsinelli law office just north and east of the explosion scene.
“All of a sudden we heard a large boom and a big vibration that shook the entire room," said Kot. "When it shook the entire room a large handful of people ran to the windows where the shades were drawn and we saw this big puff of smoke come out.”
Extra ambulances arrived from Johnson County, Kansas and Kansas City, Kansas. The fire grew to four alarms. At one point a fire truck from Overland Park was staffing the Kansas City station at 43rd and Washington. Apartment dwellers from nearby were evacuated for safety for a time and stayed warm on ATA buses brought to the scene.
Find more coverage of the Plaza fire from KCUR here.