Newly released documents show the terror when a gas explosion ripped through JJ's Restaurant and the critical decisions made in the minutes leading up to the tragedy.
The Feb. 19 explosion killed JJ's server Megan Cramer and injured up to 15. Among those injured was Douglas T. Dodson, 32, of Kansas City.
Dodson said he and Cramer were standing next to each other at the restaurant's bar when the explosion occurred at 6:04 p.m. They were about 25 feet from the front entrance, near the middle of the bar.
"Everything became pitch black, blood was everywhere and something heavy was on top of him," according to a police report. "He managed to free himself by pushing the stuff off of him and there was only one way out."
As he was crawling out, Dodson said he heard Cramer's cries for help, according to the police report.
The reports from the police department reiterate previously released details about the explosion that occurred after a Heartland Midwest crew struck a gas line while laying fiber optics for Time Warner Cable. A Heartland Midwest employee critically burned in the explosion called 911 at 4:54 p.m.
A fire department truck arrived at 5:04 p.m. The head of that crew, Kansas City Fire Department Capt. Paul Jones, said he told JJ's employees to put out all candles and pilot lights, including those on the fryers. He said he did not leave the scene until he made sure the candles had been put out.
"We advised JJ's to put out all ignition sources," according to Jones' typed statement to police. "At which time they asked about the stoves. I told them to put out all pilot lights and they said they were doing that."
He said he also advised opening the doors to bring in air to reduce the risk of the gas igniting.
Jones said he was only inside the restaurant for "a few minutes."
The fire captain said he then met a Missouri Gas Energy employee who had just arrived. Jones said he asked the MGE employee what he needed. Jones said the MGE worker said he was waiting on equipment from Raymore but that he did not need anything and that he had the situation under control. Jones went back inside to tell the JJ's employees that it could be some time before the situation was resolved because of the equipment needed.
KCFD's fire crew cleared the scene two minutes after a MGE worker arrived.
That MGE employee who spoke to Jones and the Heartland Midwest employee who called 911 suffered critical injuries in the explosion.
JJ's employees insist that they never got a sense of urgency from MGE workers or the KCFD crew. They said they were asked to open the doors to let the air vent.
Matt Nichols, the restaurant's general manager, said he first began to smell gas about 4:30 p.m. He said an MGE worker told him at 5:15 p.m. that the gas levels were dangerous.
"The MGE employee told them that they needed to leave," the police report says. "He stated that there were about four customers in the building, but they were leaving and they were calling people to cancel their reservations. He stated that the MGE employee did not make it sound that it was urgent only saying they needed to close down. He stated that they began closing the business. He stated that the MGE employee never told them to turn anything off."
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