Posted: Feb 20, 2013 7:58 AM by CBS News
Updated: Feb 20, 2013 8:03 AM
KANSAS CITY, MO. - Kansas City officials say one of two people who were missing after an explosion destroyed a restaurant has been found but the search continues for a woman who worked there.
Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi said early Wednesday that a man who was reported missing was found at St. Luke's Hospital receiving treatment. He says there has been no sign of the female employee since the explosion Tuesday evening at JJ's restaurant on the Country Club Plaza.
Searchers used cadaver dogs to search the rubble overnight and are waiting for heavy equipment to remove heavy piece so they can continue to search.
Authorities said 14 people were known to have been injured - at least three critically - by the blast and gas-fed fire that destroyed the restaurant around 6 p.m. Tuesday. The flames, spectacularly reflected in the glass facade of an office building under construction across the street, died down only after crews were able to shut off the gas around 8 p.m.
Missouri Gas Energy, the utility that supplies the area, said in a statement that "early indications are that a contractor doing underground work struck a natural gas line."
Berardi, however, cautioned that the cause was not yet known. "This investigation needs to be concluded before we want to speculate on any of that," he said.
JJ's had managed - until Tuesday night - to survive in the shadow a large construction project that has been under way across the narrow, one-way street for seven years. The work had complicated access to the street-corner restaurant, and a server needed hospital treatment in 2006 after she was struck by a rock sent flying by blasting for excavation of the construction site.
It was not known early Wednesday whether the contractor said by Missouri Gas Energy to have been doing underground work was connected to the construction project.
Just hours before the blast, many in the area had been complaining of a strong smell of gas, reporter Dave Hall of CBS Kansas City affiliate KCTV-TV reported on "CBS This Morning" Wednesday.
"We finally called the gas company," Dr. John Verstraete, who works at Plaza Physicians Group next door to JJ's, told CBS. "They came out. They checked inside our building, said that we needed to evacuate. It wasn't two minutes when we were grabbing our stuff and the explosion hit, and it hit you like a shockwave."
The blast shattered windows in some businesses at a small strip mall nearby, and residents of some neighboring apartments reported minor interior damage. One side of a brick apartment building that shares the block with JJ's appeared to have been scorched.
The University of Kansas Hospital was treating six people injured in the blast, said spokesman Bob Hallinan. He said one person was in critical condition, two were in serious condition and two others were expected to be released. He said all of those injuries were traumatic, such as broken bones, rather than burns or smoke inhalation. The final patient there was a burn victim who was transferred from Truman Medical Center, Hallinan said.
Dr. Marc Larsen, medical director of the emergency room at St. Luke's Hospital, said they had treated eight people, six of whom were walk-ins with minor injuries. He said two males were in critical condition and would be kept overnight. He said one had extensive burns and the other had facial trauma.
Jim Ligon, a JJ's bartender, said he wasn't working Tuesday night but started getting texts and calls from co-workers minutes after the explosion. He said the incident happened during the peak of weekday happy hour, when there is typically anywhere from 15 to 45 people in the bar area as well as three to five tables of diners at the restaurant.
"JJ's has a small staff, a family feel," said Ligon, 45, of Kansas City, Mo. "You see the same 100 people all the time - a bar and restaurant for regulars. We're just really hoping we come out of here OK in terms of injuries."
The restaurant consistently received high ratings from contributors to Zagat's restaurant guides, both for its food and its wine list of hundreds of selections.
The shopping area was established in 1922 by J.C. Nichols. Based on the architecture of Seville, Spain, it includes retail, restaurants, apartments and offices.
© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.