Gas leak reported before blast leveled restaurant

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Crews using flashlights, cadaver dogs and heavy equipment are rushing to finish the search for more victims of a Kansas City restaurant explosion ahead of a winter storm that's expected to bring heavy snow.

A day after the natural gas explosion leveled the popular JJ's restaurant, investigators are combing through the rubble and still trying to understand how the blast happened -- despite suspicions that flammable fuel had been leaking, maybe for weeks, somewhere in the busy outdoor shopping area.

Hours before the blast, witnesses reported a strong smell of gas, and firefighters were summoned to the scene at one point but left without ordering an evacuation.

A body has been recovered, and the mayor worries the debris could be concealing other victims.

James says authorities can't be "100 percent sure" they have accounted "for every single person that may have been at JJ's when the explosion occurred." The search started without a list of people who were in the building.

The explosion occurred after a construction crew apparently struck a natural gas line, touching off a blast that could be felt for nearly a mile.


%@AP Links

239-a-13-(Mayor Sly James, Kansas City, at news conference)-"just flat-out wrong"-Kansas City Mayor Sly James says people need to be patient about the cause of the blast. ((note "yesterday" in cut refers to Tuesday)) (20 Feb 2013)

<<CUT *239 (02/20/13)>> 00:13 "just flat-out wrong"

183-a-17-(Kansas City Mayor Sly James, at news conference)-"nobody else there"-Kansas City Mayor Sly James says the search at the site continues. (20 Feb 2013)

<<CUT *183 (02/20/13)>> 00:17 "nobody else there"

182-a-09-(Kansas City Mayor Sly James, at news conference)-"at J.J.'s"-Kansas City Mayor Sly James says it's possible that other victims will be found. (20 Feb 2013)

<<CUT *182 (02/20/13)>> 00:09 "at J.J.'s"

181-a-07-(Kansas City Mayor Sly James, at news conference)-"at this point"-Kansas City Mayor Sly James confirms one fatality in the restaurant explosion. (watch for dating when the victim is identified) (20 Feb 2013)

<<CUT *181 (02/20/13)>> 00:07 "at this point"