plaza fire | KCUR

plaza fire

Julie Denesha / KCUR

JJ's restaurant re-opened Wednesday night for dinner in its new location in the West Plaza district of Kansas City, Mo., inside the Polsinelli Building at 900 W. 48th Place.

It's been a work in progress for more than 11 months. When a natural gas explosion destroyed the original location in February 2013, it was questionable if the popular meeting spot would ever recover. 

In the days following the explosion that left server Megan Cramer dead, JJ’s co-owner Jimmy Frantze couldn’t even bring himself to look at the building.

A year and a half after a natural gas explosion destroyed an iconic off-Plaza restaurant, the business is reopening. Its noteworthy wine collection remains a draw, and the old-world ambiance has been recreated. The menu will change little, if at all. Meanwhile, the server killed by the explosion leaves behind a powerful absence. The re-opening is a milestone for regulars who considered JJ's a home away from home.


Elana Gordon / KCUR

The contract drilling company suspected of opening a gas line before JJ’s Restaurant blew up in February will fight OSHA sanctions and fines. 

One woman was killed in the explosion at the edge of Country Club Plaza.

The federal accusations are hotly denied by the company suspected of having accidentally opened the gas line.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Heartland Midwest broke rules, "willful violations" leading up to the gas leak and placed the contract driller on a “severe violator” list.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

The Kansas City Fire Department on Thursday made a major change in the way it responds to gas leaks, after it was highly questioned for its response to the JJ’s restaurant explosion. 

In what he said will be his final statement on the event, Fire Chief Paul Berardi announced that the department will stay on the scene of any gas leak until the situation posing a risk is resolved.  The department will also begin sending a battalion chief and a fire unit with monitoring equipment to all gas leak calls.

Top Of The Morning News: March 14, 2015

Mar 15, 2013
Kansas City Fire Department

KCFD is changing its gas leaks policy, and a proposed one-cent sales tax to fund transportation advanced in the Missouri Senate.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

JJ’s restaurant was leveled by an unintentional explosion that probably was ignited by pilot lights in the kitchen, thanks to the nick in the natural gas line outside the building, according to a report released by the Kansas City Fire Department on Wednesday.


Elana Gordon / KCUR

As several investigations continue into the explosion of JJ’s Restaurant, the role Missouri Gas Energy played in its response to the emergency is being questioned by experts and a witness who say the utility didn’t follow industry standards or its own advice.

Although its own safety instructions for gas leaks to its customers call for evacuating the premises immediately, MGE didn’t do that at the Feb. 19 incident. In fact, the MGE workers on the scene didn’t suggest that people leave the popular wine bar until 51 minutes after the initial 911 call.

KMBC, TV-9 News

As of mid-week, four people remained hospitalized from the gas explosion and fire that destroyed JJ’s restaurant on the Plaza. One employee, Megan Cramer, died in the blast, and a memorial service is scheduled for Monday.

A lot of questions still surround how the situation was handled, including the timing of the evacuation and whether the explosion itself could have been avoided. While investigations are ongoing, KCUR’s Elana Gordon reports on how the region’s medical community responded, and how another crisis, the Hyatt Skywalk Collapse in 1981, has helped shape the region’s capacity to respond to large-scale events.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

Local and federal officials are trying to piece together exactly what happened last Tuesday evening, when a natural gas leak led to an explosion just west of the Country Club Plaza. The explosion and resulting fire at JJ’s restaurant killed one woman, and injured 15.

The victim is presumed to be 46-year-old Megan Cramer, a native of Springfield, and a longtime resident of the Plaza. Staff and regulars of JJ’s are not only mourning her loss, but the loss of a community that had formed around drinks and meals at the restaurant. 

Elana Gordon / KCUR

A trenching contractor that purportedly cut a gas line before last week’s deadly Country Club Plaza explosion had not been allowed to dig in the area.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

Police say investigation of the fire that gutted a Plaza restaurant that killed one person and injured 15 others will take a bit longer than some expected.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

Judging by the lineup at the bar a few blocks from JJ’s last night, you might think you were at the longtime establishment. A lot of employees and regulars met up at Coal Vines on the Plaza, including James Potter.

Tuesday evening’s tragic explosion and fire on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City may have some asking basic questions about gas leaks.

Here’s a brief primer:

How do I know if I have a gas leak?

  • If it’s a natural gas leak, you will smell it.

It’s an unpleasant smell, like rotten eggs.

Natural gas goes through a lot of processing before it can be used as fuel.

After all the other chemicals are taken out, what’s left is methane.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

Up To Date's Steve Kraske interviewed JJ's co-owner David Frantze Wednesday morning in the aftermath of Tuesday's explosion that left some of the restaurant's employees critically injured and one missing.

KCUR's Elana Gordon had the opportunity Wednesday afternoon to speak with David's brother and JJ's other owner, Jimmy Frantze.

Here are some excerpts of their interview, which took place near the site of the fire.

Frank Morris / KCUR

The investigation into the blast and fire that rocked the Country Club Plaza and destroyed JJ’s Restaurant has entered a new phase.  

Jeffrey Harvey / KCUR

The circumstances surrounding Tuesday's natural gas explosion just west of the Country Club Plaza - that killed one person, injured more than a dozen, and destroyed JJ's restaurant - were discussed in an afternoon press conference.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

Ambulances on Tuesday night traveled with nine people injured in the explosion and fire on the Country Club Plaza to area hospitals, including St. Luke's and University of Kansas Hospital. Six injured patients walked themselves in. Officials today provided an update on the six victims still hospitalized.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

The best eye-witnesses to the explosion at JJ’s yesterday were also the people who were in the most danger – the restaurant’s workers. Bartenders, busboys, a hostess and others were the last ones out of that burning building.

Frank Morris / KCUR

Workers using heavy equipment to install fiber-optic cable hit a gas main hours before the blast.   According to the Kansas City Business Journal, gas company workers showed up about 20 minutes later.

They were still on site later when firefighters responded to the leak, about 45 minutes before the explosion. 

After The Fire: An Interview With JJ's Co-Owner David Frantze

Feb 20, 2013
Frank Morris / KCUR

Up To Date's Steve Kraske talked Wednesday morning with David Frantze, co-owner of JJ's restaurant. A gas explosion Tuesday evening caused a fire that destroyed the restaurant, killing at least one person and injuring at least 14 others.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

David Frantze: Steve, it’s been a pretty rough time for the entire JJ’s family.

Body Found In Rubble At JJ's

Feb 20, 2013
Mayor Sly James

At a press conference this morning, officials say they found a body in the rubble of the site of former JJ's restaurant on the Country Club Plaza. No positive identification has been made yet.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

One person still remains unaccounted for after last night's fire and explosion at JJ's restaurant on the Country Club Plaza.

Explosion At JJ's Thundered Through Plaza

Feb 20, 2013
Dan Verbeck / KCUR

At least one explosion thundered through the west edge of the County Club Plaza district  just after 6 p.m. Tuesday, sending more than a dozen people to hospitals. Some are critically injured. There was ample evidence pointing to natural gas as cause.

Two hours after fire took what was left of the explosion-ripped building, the smell of  gas was rich in the nostrils. As many as five hours before the explosion tore apart JJ’s Restaurant, there were accounts of people smelling natural gas in the area, around and to the east of the popular gathering spot.

Fire Hits Plaza Business

Feb 19, 2013
KMBC, TV-9 News

A fire caused by an apparent gas explosion near JJ's Restaurant on the Country Club Plaza has sent at least 14 people to area hospitals with injuries, some of them critical. The fire started around 6:00 Tuesday evening.  

Update 7:07 PM.  Residents from a nearby apartment building were evacuated.  Some are reporting that there was a strong smell of gas earlier in the afternoon. One resident of the nearby building also told reporters someone was operating a backhoe in the area earlier in the afternoon.