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Top Of The Morning News: March 14, 2013

Dan Verbeck

The Kansas City Fire Department released a report on the explosion that happened at JJ's restaurant in February, and Missouri launched a new campaign to discourage meth "smurfing." These stories & more from KCUR.

Explosion Probe Incomplete

A fatal explosion and fire at a Kansas City restaurant were caused by the ignition of natural gas vapors that had collected inside the restaurant, where pilot lights had been left on despite warnings from the fire crews investigating a nearby gas line rupture, according to a report released Wednesday by the Kansas City Fire Department.

The fire and explosion at JJ's restaurant near the Country Club Plaza on Feb. 19 was caused by the "accidental ignition of natural gas vapors that accumulated inside" the restaurant. Assistant City Manager Patrick Klein made the quoted remarks in a release that accompanied the investigation report. The report also said the fire began in the restaurant's kitchen and listed "heat from other open flame or smoking materials" as the "heat source."

The investigation was conducted jointly by the city of Kansas City, the fire department, the police department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The report does not assign blame for the fire and explosion, nor does it say the pilot lights were the cause of the blast that reduced the landmark restaurant to rubble, injured 16 people and killed Megan Cramer, a 46-year-old woman who worked at the restaurant.

The Missouri Public Service Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are conducting separate investigations into the cause of the natural gas line break.

Meth Shame

Missouri holds the dubious distinction of being #1 in domestic methamphetamine production.    State Attorney General Chris Koster, and Jean Peters Baker, the Jackson County Prosecutor, unveiled an effort curb meth, by shaming people who help drug producers get around limits on pseudoephedrine sales.    Koster says that posters to be displayed in pharmacies, depicting a sad looking girl, or a pair of cuffed hands, won’t solve the problem--“In 2012 Missouri set yet another record, a historic high for meth production.   Missouri needs to get off the top of this list.  Today’s action is a step in that direction.”

Missouri is the third state to try the public relations campaign to dissuade people from selling cold medicine to meth cooks.  

In The Courts

Operator of a Merriam home day care service is charged in Johnson County District Court with endangering the welfare of a child who was in her care. 33 year old Tamara Benhassine is charged  with  felony aggravated child endangerment. The District Attorney did not specify the alleged act or acts but that a toddler was involved.

A ten-year veteran Grain Valley elementary school teacher awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to sexually abusing eleven boys.  Matthew Nelson agreed to a 15 year sentence in return for his pleas.  Court documents indicate the victims were all under age 14, five of them  younger than 12. Nelson was once a teacher of the year. He taught second and third grade classes at Prairie Branch Elementary in the Grain Valley District.

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