Heartland Midwest employee still recovering from JJ's blast - KCTV5

Heartland Midwest employee still recovering from JJ's blast

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SMITHVILLE, MO (KCTV) -

Victims of the JJ's restaurant explosion continue to react to a report released two days ago by the Missouri Public Service Commission.

The 125-page report suggests USIC mismarked gas lines which likely could have avoided the leak. The commission also said Missouri Gas Energy waited too long to check gas levels after the leak was reported.

One restaurant employee was killed in the Feb. 19 explosion and several others suffered serious injuries.

One of the men who suffered some of the worst injuries from the blast spoke with KCTV5's Bonyen Lee after the report was released.

Mike Tanner doesn't remember the minutes following the JJ's explosion, but the images of flames and rubble are ones Kansas City will never forget.

"I was trying to communicate with the gas guy and that's all I remember," he said.

Tanner responded to the gas leak as a supervisor for Heartland Midwest, the company that dug into the ground on that February day. Nearly one year later he is home, living a life he and his family weren't sure he'd ever be able to have almost one year ago.

"It was three and a half, four weeks later before I was alert enough to realize what happened," he said. "I had burns to 22 percent of my body, they removed my spleen, I had a laceration to my head, a broken collar bone, I got a plate and screws with it, I got nerve damage to my left arm so I don't have 95 percent of my function to my left arm. I can't raise it up, can't do anything like that, I've had multiple back procedures and surgeries for my compression fractures, my nerve damage in my back."

What happened is slowly becoming clearer after the Missouri Public Service Commission released a report finding that USIC may have mismarked gas lines which might have led Tanner's crew to dig in the wrong spot.

The report also found that MGE waited too long to report the gas levels.

"That was amazing. It was really good news. I kept reading and reading and reading. It was good," Tanner said. "I know we didn't do anything wrong. I've said that from the first day I woke up from the hospital."

Having an official finding is helping Tanner and his wife move forward.

"Having it on paper just makes you really feel relieved," Crystal Tanner said. "We don't need to be thinking about the coulda, woulda, shoulda, it is what it is now and we have to be able to move forward from that."

It's an emotional move that, in ways, is harder than the physical healing process.

"It is at least as mentally trying as it is physically, if not more," Mike Tanner said.

The Tanners have filed suit against MGE's parent company, Southern Union and USIC. They are expected to go to trial sometime next year.

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