Kansas City blast investigation involving JJ's restaurant could take 10 days

Thursday, February 21, 2013 | 3:04 p.m. CST; updated 3:21 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 21, 2013

KANSAS CITY — The investigation into a deadly natural gas explosion that leveled a popular restaurant could take up to 10 days, the Kansas City Fire Department said Thursday.

James Garrett, spokesman for the Fire Department, said the investigation will include assistance from federal agencies and the Kansas City Police Department.

The explosion and fire at JJ's restaurant near a busy outdoor shopping area occurred Tuesday evening after a construction crew apparently struck a natural gas line. One person was killed and 15 others were injured. The events that led up to the blast as well as the precise cause remained under investigation.

Most of the injured have been released from various hospitals. One person remained in critical condition at University of Kansas Hospital on Thursday, while two others were in serious condition and one was in fair, hospital spokesman Dennis McCulloch said.

The explosion reduced the landmark near the upscale Country Club Plaza shopping and dining district to scorched rubble and apparently killed an employee, casting an indelible pall on the years of fond memories shared by patrons and staff alike.

Officials have not identified the victim, but the mother of a missing restaurant server told reporters Wednesday that she's certain the remains were those of her daughter, 46-year-old Megan Cramer.

The Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office, which has been conducting the autopsy on the body pulled from the rubble of the restaurant early Wednesday, said the victim's formal identification likely would not be released Thursday because of a winter storm that hit the area.

Carrie Pimentel, an investigator with the medical examiner's office, said doctors at the medical examiner's office weren't able to get to work because of heavy snow and treacherous driving conditions. She said it's unclear when the victim's identity will be released.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James said Thursday on Twitter that servers at another area restaurant were donating shifts to JJ's employees and that members of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association are donating 10 percent of Saturday sales to help JJ's employees.

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