Plaza blast, 1 year later - KCTV5

Plaza blast, 1 year later: First responders, hospital staff remember

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Wednesday marks one year since JJ's restaurant on the Plaza exploded. It was a disaster that in many ways permanently changed Kansas City and even taught us some lessons.

While it's been one year, the memories remain fresh for those who helped the injured.

The blast at JJ's rocked the West Plaza neighborhood around dinner time.

"There was a great fear there were a lot of casualties," said Dr. Michael Moncure, the director of trauma at the University of Kansas Hospital. "I felt the actual explosion."

Moncure was dining nearby that night.

"I could see from over the hill there was quite a bit of fire and that this was very serious," he said.

He raced back to work at the University of Kansas Hospital and arrived as the ambulances pulled up.

"Blast effects and explosions. There could be number of different things that could occur," Moncure said.

Six of the 15 injured in the JJ's blast went to the University of Kansas Hospital.

"After an event like that, or like the snow from a couple weeks ago, we like to get together afterwards and do what we call an ‘after-action report,'" said Dr. Lee A. Norman, the hospital's chief medical officer.

Norman showed KCTV5 inside the incident command center at the hospital that's activated during disasters.

"Honestly, most of the time when we do drills it's during the day time. It was a good real-life experience," he said.

He said JJ's taught them small lessons such as needing more outside lighting when the ambulance bays are filled at night.

"There were a couple of the people that worked in the restaurant and I have to commend them. Because they were the ones that actually sensed that something was going on and got the patrons out," Moncure said.

Moncure said he learned about the power of the human spirit from the patients who helped others that night.

"They were instrumental in there being a lot less casualties," he said.

Saint Luke's Hospital also took patients from the JJ's explosion, and they released a written statement about what they learned:

"As a Level I Trauma Center, Saint Luke's Hospital trains and prepares year round for incidents such as this. On the night of JJ's explosion, we experienced first-hand how vitally important this training is. Our experienced team of trauma physicians and nurses treated some of the most critically injured patients in the incident, patients we were honored to care for. Though a tragedy like this is never welcome, Saint Luke's is committed - and prepared - to provide the highest level of care to the community, even in a crisis. We are grateful for the dedication of emergency personnel and first responders whose support make it possible for us to do what we do."

A recent report from the Missouri Public Service Commission pointed much of the blame for the explosion on the response by Missouri Gas Energy.

The blast killed one employee, Megan Cramer, and injured many others. Many of the employees who were there that night, as well as the owner, have sued.

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