The Missouri Public Service Commission, which oversees utilities, has launched an investigation into the blast, dispatching five employees to the site. Commission Chairman Kevin Gunn said preliminary information indicates that gas pipelines had been marked — as required by law — before a contractor started doing work in the area. He says a gas leak appears to have occurred after a pipeline was hit.
Gunn said MGE followed state rules in promptly reporting the explosion. Investigators will look at whether it followed state rules in responding to the gas line leak reported beforehand. It could take up to six months before state regulators release a final report.
Dr. John Verstraete, who works at Plaza Physicians Group next door to JJ's, told The Kansas City Star that several office employees smelled gas for several hours Tuesday afternoon. The smell grew stronger through the day, and a gas company employee entered the medical office just before 6 p.m. and recommended evacuating, he said.
William Borregard, 20, who lives with his sister and her fiancé in the apartment building nearest to JJ's, said he had noticed a strange smell for weeks that had worsened in recent days. On Tuesday, they called the apartment manager.
"We said it's very pungent, and you should come out here and check it out," he said. "He came over and rapped on the door and said there's nothing to worry about. Stay in your apartment. That was five minutes prior to the explosion. And as soon as he left the explosion happened."
Associated Press reporters Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, David Lieb in Jefferson City and Jeff McMurray in Chicago contributed to this report.
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