Plaza Fire Update: Heartland Midwest LLC didn't have permit to excavate outside JJ's, city says

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The company laying cable outside JJ's Restaurant last week when an explosion leveled the business did not have an approved Kansas City permit for excavation, 41 Action News has learned via an open records request with the city.

Heartland Midwest LLC was laying fiber-optic cable for Time Warner Cable near the restaurant Tuesday night when somebody hit a gas line, sparking a leak in and around the restaurant.

EXCLUSIVE: Surveillance video of blast - http://tinyurl.com/a2qe6na

Heartland applied for a permit the following day, city officials said. Their request was denied.

According to Kansas City's municipal code , the punishment for violating that ordinance is a fine of up to $500 and/or a jail sentence of up to six months. Each day the violation continues is considered a separate offense.

But an attorney with more than 30 years of experience with propane, gasoline, and natural gas explosion cases told 41 Action News that is the least of Heartland Midwest's worries.

Lou Accurso of the Accurso Law Firm (located just a block from the explosion site) said the development is significant because it could make it easier to prove negligence in future litigation.

"It shows they are not paying attention to the rules and the statutes enacted in the city, and they hadn't put any significant thought into the project before they started to dig," Accurso said.

Accurso said the development could also be problematic for Time Warner, who contracted out Heartland Midwest to do the excavation.

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The attorney, who has pursued more than 50 cases across the country, said he has received calls from other lawyers who might be representing plaintiffs in the JJ's explosion case. Accurso said Monday's development will likely be just one detail with many more to follow.

"It's almost like a house of cards or dominoes," said Accurso. "It's not just usually one thing that goes wrong, but a series of things that goes wrong."

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One person died in the explosion and fire. Several others were injured. The exact cause of the explosion has not been confirmed by Kansas City fire investigators.

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An attorney representing Heartland Midwest has not responded to repeated requests for comment. The company's web site is no longer showing up online.

41 Action News Investigator Ryan Kath is getting more information on this story and will update this page when more details are available.

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

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