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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Explosion Victims Decry No-Evacuation Order

(CN) - Six former employees of a popular Kansas City, Mo., restaurant that exploded last month claim in court that they suffered injuries because the gas company said there was no reason to evacuate.

Lindsay Simmons, Clay Samuelson, Doug Dodson, Deidre Chase-Estes, Andrew LeTourneau and Nathan Dorsey each worked for JJ's Bar and Grill when "a massive natural gas explosion and fire ... destroyed the restaurant building and injured each plaintiff," according to the complaint in Jackson County court.

The action makes no mention of the explosion's lone fatality, 46-year-old JJ's server Megan Cramer.

Those who survived attribute the gas leak to nearby construction work ordered by Time Warner Cable Media and contracted to Heartland Midwest.

They say a Heartland worker ruptured a natural gas pipe maintained by Southern Union Co. dba Missouri Gas Energy (MGE) Co.

MGE allegedly received notice of the work from Missouri One Call, and then hired USIC Locating Services to locate the underground natural gas piping and make accurate markings on the surface to indicate the surface and dept of those materials.

The survivors say Heartland was supposed to dig potholes around the markings to ensure full awareness of the "location and depth of the underground piping, before excavation, tunneling, digging or drilling equipment is utilized."

"The combination of erroneous markings and miscommunications between the boring companies and the marking companies caused or contributed to cause the broing drill to run in to the gas pipeline and rupture the pipeline," the complaint continues.

A contractor called 911 on the afternoon of Feb. 19, 2013, to report that it had hit a gas line and caused a leak.

Alerted to the leak, MGE sent an emergency response worker, Michael Palier, to the scene.

At the time, each of the plaintiffs had been preparing for the dinner crowd at JJ's Restaurant, "just as they would on any other weekday," the action states.

"MGE told people at the scene including employees of JJ's that the gas leak would soon be repaired and that there was no reason to evacuate," the survivors add. "MGE repeatedly told people at the scene not to worry and that everything was under control.

"MGE failed to inform plaintiffs that there was a danger and it was urgent that nay and/or all people must leave the scene as soon as possible. Plaintiffs were not ordered to evacuate and were not told that there was a danger of fire or explosion.

"MGE employees detected gas in structures at a level that would require evacuation but failed to timely order an evacuation or communicate the urgent need to leave buildings and structures in and around the gas leak.

"A massive explosion destroyed the JJ's building and a massive fire ensued. All plaintiffs were inside the restaurant building when the explosion occurred."

In addition to psychological and emotional injuries, each plaintiff describes a litany of physical injuries, including lacerations, burns, contusions, scarring, hearing damage, nerve damage, and vision problems.

The survivors sued Time Warner, Heartland, MGE, Pailer, Missouri One Call and USIC. They are represented by Grant Davis with Davis, Bethune & Jones.

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