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Report on JJ’s restaurant explosion is delayed at least another month

Updated: 2013-07-28T02:25:49Z

By MIKE HENDRICKS

The Kansas City Star

A final report on the cause of the fatal natural-gas blast at JJ’s restaurant has been delayed for at least another month.

State regulators with the Missouri Public Service Commission say in a status report filed last week that they completed their on-site investigation this month.

However, they are still waiting on information from Missouri Gas Energy and seeking information from people the report did not identify.

The commission began its investigation the night of the Feb. 19 blast and fire that leveled the Country Club Plaza-area eatery and killed a waitress there.

An investigation by the Kansas City Fire Department attributed the cause of the explosion to a gas leak that occurred when an underground line was punctured by a contractor using boring equipment to install telecommunications cable.

Gas collected in the restaurant for at least an hour, the report said, before it was ignited by a flame, likely a pilot light.

The public service commission says its focus is to determine whether MGE was in compliance with state regulations, as well as state and federal safety standards.

To learn that answer, investigators interviewed more than 60 people, according to a status report issued in June. This month, the commission used ground-penetrating radar and laser scans to collect data beneath the restaurant slab. An analysis of that information had not been completed when the status report was filed Wednesday afternoon.

Investigators also tested the bore head that hit the gas pipe and tested the locating equipment that was used to find the path of the gas line.

Two gas valves were dug up and examined this month.

“Based on the latest observations,” the report said, “staff will request information from an interested party and will conduct an interview from another interested party.”

The report did not identify those parties. The staff attorney who filed the report, senior counsel Robert Berlin, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

As a formality, staffers asked the commission’s permission to continue their investigation and promised to file an updated report on or before Aug. 27.

To reach Mike Hendricks, call 816-234-4738 or send email to mhendricks@kcstar.com.

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