Authorities initially said they thought a gas leak caused the explosion that rocked a Plantation shopping center, injured 23 people, destroyed businesses and knotted traffic for miles. A formal finding on the cause is still to come.
Rescue crews found patients scattered across a debris field that stretched for a few hundred yards. Yet they were surprised to find no one had been killed.
The center of the mysterious explosion appeared to be a former restaurant, Pizzafire, at Market on University,
Agents from the federal
"We suspect it was a (gas leak,)" said Plantation Fire Rescue Deputy Chief
The blast was possibly the worst in almost 35 years. In 1985, a blast at a Midas Muffler shop on
Posts on social media reported that the Plantation blast was heard about six miles to the west near
About a dozen neighboring businesses in the shopping center, including
The blast even triggered airbags in some cars parked nearby.
Officials said 19 people were taken to hospitals for treatment, including one child and one adult who were taken to
Four people who were wounded refused treatment at a scene that resembled a war zone.
Gordon said first responders treated "what we call classic blast-related injuries," such as ringing ears and cuts and bruises from flying debris.
No broken bones were reported, but one man used a makeshift tourniquet to stop the bleeding from a shrapnel wound, he said.
"The injuries were not as severe as we would have thought they would be," Gordon said.
A stroke of good fortune came as a neighboring business, a computer learning store for children, was not open at the time. The store, Code Ninjas, was destroyed in the explosion.
"We are fortunate to have been closed today and all our Ninjas, Senseis and Directors are safe," the operators posted on Facebook. "Our thoughts and prayers are now with all those families who were affected attending the other shops in the area."
Fire Rescue initially had trouble getting close to the blast site because debris blocked access roads.
"My diploma and stuff was in the streets," said Buscemi, who remembered there was a gas leak a few months ago at the shopping center that forced an evacuation.
The explosion and investigation forced the closure of many nearby businesses and roads for hours.
Just before the blast,
"A huge, huge bang," he said. "It started shaking back and forth and the roof tiles started crashing down and the power went out."
"We saw good Samaritans carrying the injured," Hoffman said.
"We all heard it and knew something didn't sound right," he said after the building was evacuated.
"The pizza building looked like ground zero," he said.
Schwartz said he opened the practice about three years ago and has been building it up to its full potential ever since. It's become one of his top-performing locations, he said.
"You make an investment like that, and it's finally starting to pay off, and then it gets destroyed and you basically have to start over," he said.
Schwartz was surprised more people weren't hurt.
"That area is usually busy on Saturdays, with people walking on that side of the plaza to and from Tropical Smoothie Café and
She said all four of her security cameras had blank images and she feared the extent of the damage.
"An entire staff of people were getting ready to open," Reuter said.
"We heard a strong boom, and one second after, everything exploded in the shop and out in the street," he said, adding that the salon's glass windows blew out and all of the shelves inside fell to the floor.
"It's crazy," Yacob said. "We thought it was a car or a bombing because everything (the building across the street) disappeared."
"We didn't know if there was going to be another explosion so we immediately grabbed customers and went out the back emergency door," she said. "We are so lucky no one was hurt."
Staff writers Aric Chokey,
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