Heartland Midwest attorney believes picture raises questions about what caused JJ's gas leak

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Attorneys representing Heartland Midwest, the contractor doing work in the area near JJ's Restaurant before the explosion that killed one person and injured more than a dozen others, released a picture showing exactly how utility lines were marked the day of the blast. They say the picture shows more investigation is needed to figure out how the gas leak started.

Following the explosion, Missouri Gas Energy and the Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi both said it initially appeared a contractor doing upgrades for a cable company struck a 2-inch gas line, causing the leak. They believed the explosion was ignited somewhere inside JJ's.

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Heartland Midwest was the contractor hired by Time Warner cable to perform horizontal boring work in the area near JJ's the day of the blast. But their attorney said the only evidence they hit the line is a 911 call made by a Heartland Midwest employee an hour before the explosion.

"The key to this investigation is clearly going to be to get the opportunity to look underground, and all of us will have a better understanding of the sequence of events that lead to this explosion when we get to look underground," said Brad Russell, attorney for Heartland Midwest.

Russell showed the 41 Action News investigators what he believes is the last picture taken of work in the area before the explosion. Dated February 19, the picture shows the utility markings on the streets outside JJ's restaurant.

The picture showed important lines: a yellow one indicating the gas line, and white ones indicating the progress of the drilling by Heartland Midwest. The picture also shows what are called potholes, where company employees dug down to physically see the depth of the gas line before drilling.

Russell says employees measure the line at 24 inches deep. In the picture, you can see workers wrote "37" in white paint. Russell says that indicates how deep their drilling was when the passed the gas line. He said that should mean they cleared the line by almost a foot.

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Russell said the company's standard operating procedure is to ask for the lines to be refreshed periodically during long-term projects. He said that's why company employees made a call to Missouri One Call the day of the explosion.

He also said the company routinely uses spotters and sophisticated locating technology to make sure they are drilling in the correct place.

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