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One set of remains recovered at site of Kansas City gas explosion

February 20, 2013|By Michael Muskal

Workers searching through the site of a Kansas City restaurant destroyed in a gas explosion and fire have recovered the remains of one person, officials said Wednesday.

It was too soon to know the sex of the person, Mayor Sly James said at a news conference. Earlier, officials had told reporters that they were looking for a missing female worker at JJ’s restaurant, but added they couldn’t be sure that they had accounted for every other person in the restaurant.

At least seven people who were injured in the explosion at JJ’s restaurant remained hospitalized Wednesday, including two listed in critical condition. Officials said six or seven other people were treated and released.

On Tuesday night, officials said two people were missing. But one of the two was found undergoing treatment at a hospital, Fire Chief Paul Berardi said. The mayor said all efforts including cadaver dogs and heavy equipment would be used to locate the missing woman.

“Our main concern right now is the fact that we have a missing individual whose family is very much in anguish about that,” James said. “We need to resolve that problem. There is some hope in light of the fact that last night there were two people missing and we found one.”

According to officials, the explosion took place at about 6 p.m. Tuesday at the restaurant in the Country Club Plaza shopping and dining district.

Berardi said firefighters were called at about 5:15 p.m. with a report that a construction worker had hit a gas line near the restaurant. Firefighters talked to utility workers and left the area. The explosion took place about 45 minutes later and the fire burned for about 50 minutes until it was brought under control, the fire chief said.

The utility, Missouri Gas Energy, which supplies the area, said in a statement that “early indications are that a contractor doing underground work struck a natural gas line.”

“Emergency responders along with Missouri Gas Energy personnel are on site,” the utility said. “The area has been secured and the flow of gas has been stopped.”

Berardi said the exact cause of the apparent gas leak and explosion will be investigated.

 “Once we confirm the victim is or isn't inside the building, that part of the investigation will continue,” the fire chief told reporters.

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