Kansas City police investigation reveals new details surrounding deadly Plaza explosion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A Kansas City police investigation provides new details about the moments surrounding the deadly explosion at JJ's Restaurant on the County Club Plaza.

41 Action News obtained the investigative report conducted by the Kansas City Police Bomb and Arson unit in the wake of the Feb. 19 blast.

The investigation includes interviews with JJ's employees about conversations they had with Kansas City firefighters and MGE workers before the explosion.

The documents also include an interview with the KCFD fire captain who first responded to the gas leak before leaving the scene with MGE.

Click here for complete coverage of the explosion on the Plaza

The day after the massive fire, a Kansas City police detective interviewed the 44-year-old captain of Pumper 19.

Upon arrival, the fire captain said he could "hear the gas leaking" outside of JJ's and could smell gas inside the restaurant. At that point, he told the detective, he instructed employees to put out all ignition sources.

The fire captain said he told staff members to blow out all candles and open the doors to air out the restaurant. He also described his conversation with the first MGE worker to arrive at the scene.

"I asked him if he was going to be able to get it cut off," he told the detective in the report. "He said yes, but he was waiting on equipment from Raymore. He also said once the equipment came from Raymore, he would be able to get it cut off. We asked if there was anything he needed us to do. He told us no he had it under control and said we can leave."

The KCFD crew cleared the scene at 5:17 p.m. Less than an hour later, Pumper 19 was one of the first trucks to arrive as flames engulfed the building.

"There was a large collapse in the front. We were helping people that were in the street," the fire captain said.

The KCPD investigative file also includes an interview with a manager at JJ's, who described the communication he had with an MGE worker who had taken gas readings inside the restaurant.

"He stated that the MGE employee did not make it sound that it was urgent, only saying that you need to close down," the detective wrote. "He stated that they began closing the business. He stated the MGE employee never told them to turn anything off."

In the 24 hours after the explosion, Kansas City police worked to gather statements from victims inside area hospitals.

One of those conversations took place at Olathe Medical Center with an employee of Heartland Midwest, the company whose crew hit the gas line while installing fiber-optic cable. The employee was standing in the street with coworkers prior to the blast.

"The explosion knocked him unconscious and to the ground," the report said. "When he came to, he moved his truck, then drove home. He thought about going back and checking on his coworkers, but the police had the roads blocked."

Finally, the police investigation provides new details about the horror employees experienced when the restaurant exploded and walls collapsed.

One employee was standing at the bar next to Megan Cramer, who lost her life in the fire .

"Everything became pitch black, blood was everywhere and something heavy was on top of him. He managed to free himself by pushing the stuff off him and there was only one way out. As he was crawling out, he heard Megan asking for help."

A lawsuit filed March 22 on behalf of that JJ's employee and five others said along with physical injuries, they are also suffering from emotional wounds like post-traumatic stress disorder.

Ryan Kath can be reached at ryan.kath@kshb.com. You can also follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.

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