Former employee keeps tabs on KC restaurant explosion - FOX Carolina 21

Former employee keeps tabs on KC restaurant explosion

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Crews returned Wednesday to search the rubble of a popular Kansas City restaurant one day after an explosion killed one person and hurt more than a dozen others.

One Nashville woman knows the place and the people more than most and first saw images of the fire while watching on Channel 4 News.

"And when I looked up at the news, your news, there it was on the news. And I was just in shock," said Michelle Blancho.

JJ's Restaurant on the Country Club Plaza went up in flames, and brick and glass scattered five blocks. Blancho, a longtime former employee, felt helpless while watching at home in Nashville.

Those employees are family to her.

"It was 'Cheers.' I mean, you knew the people who came through the door," she said.

Blancho worked at JJ's in the 1980s and said she still gets together with old bosses and co-workers.

"They always took care of me," she said.

But Tuesday night, all she could do was worry and keep calling, trying to get an update on her friends' safety.

"When I saw it, I thought, 'There can't be anyone alive,'" Blancho said.

Authorities have been looking for one woman who worked at JJ's as a server and was reported missing after the blast. They previously said she was the only person still unaccounted for following the explosion and fire.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James said 15 people were injured in the blast and fire. Six are still hospitalized, and nine have been released.

"One of the co-owners and managers there, Matt, was safe, and I knew he would be there. And Jimmy, the owner, was out of town," Blancho said.

Workers were evacuated just before the explosion after someone smelled natural gas in the area.

"They went around back, and I saw the parking area where we used to park and the alley," Blancho said. "Which, luckily, was furthest from the bar, which on a Tuesday night would've been busier than the restaurant."

Crews from Missouri Gas Energy are now investigating the explosion. In the meantime, Blancho is keeping her phone close by and hoping JJ's can recover.

Blancho said she expects the owner to rebuild once everyone heals.

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