Search continues for JJ's employee still missing - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

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Authorities have ended search of rubble of Plaza restaurant

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Fire and smoke rise at an upscale shopping district in Kansas City, Mo., where a city official said a gas explosion sparked a block-engulfing blaze, Tuesday evening, Feb. 19, 2013.  (AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, Keith Myers) Fire and smoke rise at an upscale shopping district in Kansas City, Mo., where a city official said a gas explosion sparked a block-engulfing blaze, Tuesday evening, Feb. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, Keith Myers)
Mayor Sly James tweeted this photo looking directly down at what used to be the private dining room at JJ's.  (@MayorSlyJames/Twitter) Mayor Sly James tweeted this photo looking directly down at what used to be the private dining room at JJ's. (@MayorSlyJames/Twitter)
Mayor Sly James tweeted this photo looking directly down at what used to be the private dining room at JJ's.  (@MayorSlyJames/Twitter) Mayor Sly James tweeted this photo looking directly down at what used to be the private dining room at JJ's. (@MayorSlyJames/Twitter)
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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -

Authorities have ended their search for bodies in the rubble of a Kansas City restaurant that was destroyed by an explosion.

A body was found Wednesday morning in the bar area in the southwest corner of the restaurant. Authorities believe it's the body of Megan Cramer, a JJ's server who has been missing since the blast occurred at 6:04 p.m. Tuesday.

 

Kansas City Fire Department ended the search for additional bodies at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. Authorities said they have located everyone that was thought to be missing and they do not believe there are any additional victims inside the debris.

Authorities said they are now focused on determining the cause and origin of the explosion.

"Our thoughts again remain with those hurt and those grieving. We ask you to keep them in your prayers," Mayor Sly James said in a news conference Wednesday night.

Wednesday morning, James had said authorities can't be "100 percent sure that we can account for every single person that may have been at JJ's when the explosion occurred."

One of two people first feared to be missing was later found.

James says 15 people were injured in the blast and fire. Six are still hospitalized, and nine have been released.

Saint Luke's Medical Center has one patient who is in serious condition in intensive care, hospital officials said.

The University of Kansas Hospital treated six patients. Three patients suffered burns and are in critical condition. Two patients were admitted and the final patient was treated and released.

The blast happened about 6 p.m. Tuesday, when the dinner crowd would have been filing into JJ's and the many other restaurants in the upscale shopping and dining district.

A contractor had called 911 at 4:54 p.m. to report a gas line had been struck during construction work. Fire and Missouri Gas Energy crews responded. The explosion occurred just after 6 p.m. An MGE officials said the explosion likely occurred inside the restaurant.

Officials have said a contractor apparently hit a gas line while lying a line to a nearby hotel. However, the city shows no permits for such work to be done by Heartland.

City Manager Troy Schulte emphasized a permit could have been obtained by someone else on behalf of the project, and the situation is being investigated.

A spokesman for Time Warner Cable, Mike Pedelty, said Heartland Midwest was doing work in the area for TWC as a subcontractor in the area before the explosion occurred. He said he did not want to speculate on whether Heartland Midwest struck a gas line during their work.

"Like all residents of Kansas City, we are saddened to hear of the fire at the Plaza," Pedelty said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to each family that has been affected by this incident. TWC stands ready to support the local authorities with their investigation should that be needed."

Searchers used cadaver dogs to search the rubble overnight and began using Wednesday morning heavy equipment to remove heavy piece so they can continue to search. The search will continue until bad weather forces it to be shutdown.

Schulte said it appeared an accident by a utility contractor had caused the blast, and a statement from utility Missouri Gas Energy late Tuesday reiterated that possibility, but Berardi and others cautioned that the cause was still being investigated.

The blast shattered windows in some businesses at a small strip mall nearby, and residents of some neighboring apartments reported minor interior damage. One side of a brick apartment building that shares the block with JJ's appeared to have been scorched.

Workers were rushing to remove the debris and investigate the cause because a major winter storm was forecast to hit the area Wednesday evening, James said.

"We have a major storm coming in this evening," James said. "We're going to work diligently to get in (to the blast site) to get underneath that weather."

JJ's had managed - until Tuesday night - to survive in the shadow a large construction project that has been under way across the narrow, one-way street for seven years. The work had complicated access to the street-corner restaurant, and a server needed hospital treatment in 2006 after she was struck by a rock sent flying by blasting for excavation of the construction site.

It was not known whether the contractor said by MGE to have been doing underground work was connected to the construction project.

The restaurant consistently received high ratings from contributors to Zagat's restaurant guides, both for its food and its wine list of hundreds of selections.

The shopping area was established in 1922 by J.C. Nichols. Based on the architecture of Seville, Spain, it includes retail, restaurants, apartments and offices.

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat from Kansas City, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon.

"My heart and prayers go out at this tragic time in Kansas City. The heavy burden of the loss of this historic family legacy has taken a human toll and I know our city will do what it always does – pull together in times of grief and challenge. I would also like to express my deep respect and appreciation for the first responders, who brought their consistent professionalism and bravery to the scene within moments to prevent further death, injury, and destruction," he said.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.)  and The Associated Press.  All rights reserved.

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