Plaza gas explosion has officials, homeowners more cautious


The contrast between officials and homeowners' response to a gas leak in the Brookside neighborhood Wednesday night and the gas leak outside JJ's Restaurant last month was noticeable.

Homeowners say they took the notice to evacuate quickly in the wake of the explosion that ripped through the restaurant on Feb. 19, killing a server and injuring 15 others. Construction and utility workers were also injured in the explosion.

"Particularly with some of the stuff that happened at JJ's, we just packed up and got out there immediately," said Brookside resident Bob Jump.

In the case of JJ's, Kansas City Fire Department protocols said the fire department cleared an outdoor scene once the gas company arrived and had the situation under control. Missouri Gas Energy employees did that the evening of Feb. 19. No mandatory evacuations were ordered by anyone.

Now the KCFD stays on scene until the all clear is given. That was the case Wednesday night along with the order for almost two dozen homes to be evacuated.

A company was laying lines for the Google Fiber project when crews damaged an AT&T cable, officials with Missouri Gas Energy and AT&T say. The name of that company has not been released.

After the AT&T cable was damaged, crews for Howe Utility responded to restore services to AT&T customers. Howe Utility was doing the work on behalf of AT&T, according to Missouri Gas Energy.

Howe crews then struck the line.

"While digging to make repairs to that cable, a third-party contractor accidentally damaged a gas line, which has since been repaired," according to a statement from AT&T. "After emergency services deemed the area safe, AT&T technicians have returned and are currently working to repair the damaged cable that impacts our wire line services."

Homeowners were called back into their residences about 10:30 p.m. Thursday.

After a gas leak explosion ripped through an East Texas school in 1937 and killed more than 300 students and teachers, the Texas Legislature mandated a compound be added to the odorless, colorless natural gas. That compound, which gives gas a smell of rotten eggs, became worldwide practice as a result of that practice.

And while some described the smell as so overpowering that it gagged patrons and workers at JJ's restaurant, witnesses said there was never a sense of urgency to flee the area. That wasn't the case Wednesday night when the smell filled the air.

"We didn't turn off our pilot light," said Dan Murray. "We just left."

Residents were kept from their homes for three hours. Firefighters went inside each home and re-lit pilot lights and checked the gas before allowing the homeowners to return.

Copyright2013 KCTV (MeredithCorp.) All rights reserved.


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