According to authorities, the Florida shopping mall explosion occurred at around 11:30 a.m. July 6 in a vacant Pizzafire restaurant at 1041 S. University Drive, in the north end of the Market on University plaza.
The restaurant, which is part of a chain with locations in New Jersey and Ohio, was reportedly closed down in December.
The blast heavily damaged several businesses on the plaza, but the pizza place and an LA Fitness next door suffered the worst damage. The explosion hurled sheet metal and building debris across the strip mall’s parking lot, damaging several vehicles and shattering storefront windows.
Fire rescue officials have confirmed that 23 people were injured. Two people are still in the hospital receiving treatment, and one of them has had his condition upgraded from critical to fair. Among those injured was a child who had been at LA Fitness when the blast occurred. None of the reported injuries appear to be life-threatening.
“We’re relieved that considering the debris field and considering how we found the patients and where we found them, the injuries are not as severe as we would’ve thought they would be. So we’re very thankful for that,” said Plantation Fire Deputy Chief Joel Gordon during a press conference on Saturday afternoon.
Was a Gas Leak Responsible for the Explosion?
Initial reports suggest that a gas leak caused the blast. A spokesperson for TECO Peoples Gas confirmed to news sources that the company received a call about a possible gas leak at the mall and was working to send a technician to investigate when the explosion occurred.
The manager of a store next to the pizza restaurant told The Miami Herald that he noticed the odor of gas just before the blast and checked with a neighboring stores to try and find the source. The manager said he didn’t consider that the odor originated from the pizza restaurant because it had been shut down for months.
Investigators have not yet confirmed if a gas leak was responsible, but fire crews have reportedly found a ruptured gas line beneath the rubble of the pizza store. During Saturday’s press conference, Gordon said it’s too early to confirm that the blast was caused by a gas leak.
The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms are reportedly investigating the strip mall explosion together with various local and state agencies.
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