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Suspected Gas Explosion Injures At Least 23 People At Plantation Shopping Mall

Updated at 6:28 p.m. Saturday. 

At least 23 people were injured after an explosion rocked a shopping center in Plantation just before 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. 

Police completed their search for victims, as well as a secondary sweep by late afternoon Saturday.  

There are no reported fatalities. One person suffered potentially life-threatening injuries. They were taken to the trauma center at Broward Health Medical Center.  While 18 others with injuries were taken to local hospitals, according to the Plantation Police Dept.

 

Police started receiving calls from the L.A. Fitness located at1041 S University Dr. at 11:28 a.m. about a blast that is believed to have originated froma closed down restaurant nearby that was formerly  "Pizzafire Plantation."

Jesse Walaschek had just started driving away from the LA Fitness with his wife and three kids when he felt the explosion, and saw dust in his rear-view mirror. “I felt a loud boom, a loud blast,” he said. “You couldn’t see anything because there’s so much dust.”Walaschek said he noticed many children were still at the gym when he picked his kids up. Police have confirmed one of the injured victims is a child. 

The Plantation Fire Dept. tweeted out that it was a gas explosion, but as of 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Plantation Police would not confirm the cause because it is still an active investigation. 

SuD closed— Plantation Fire (@PlantationFire) July 6, 2019

 

"At this point, we can’t actually confirm that it was the gas," said Plantation Fire Deputy Chief Joel Gordon. "We're relieved...we're thankful it wasn't worse than it was." 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that he had been in contact with Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony about the incident. 

State Sen. Lauren Book lives in Plantation. She came to bring bottles of water to the scene of the explosion after she heard it inside her house a couple of miles away. 

"We heard a loud, loud boom, we thought it was thunder, wasn't sure what was going on," Book said. "You know, this is where we get our bagels, this is where we get our Pho, this is where my kids go to the dentist. It's surreal, it's in your community - it's a minute away from your house. So it's a little overwhelming.

The power company, Florida Power & Light, was on scene, as well as the gas company for the property, TECO Peoples Gas. Police report the gas in the area has been secured. 

The state fire marshal, the Florida Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the bomb and arson units from the Broward Sheriff's Office are also on site investigating the explosion. 

 

Plantation Police Sgt. Jessica Ryan asked residents to stay away from the area, as it's still considered "an active scene."
Credit Caitie Switalski / WLRN News
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WLRN News
Plantation Police Sgt. Jessica Ryan asked residents to stay away from the area, as it's still considered "an active scene."

“It’s still an active scene, of course we’re going to take our time to make sure that we go through all of the businesses - that we do a very thorough search to make sure we don’t leave anyone behind who may be injured or trapped," said Plantation Police Sgt. Jessica Ryan.

University Drive was closed from Broward Blvd. to Peters Road. Peters Road is also shut down from University Dr. to SW 78th Ave. The businesses in the surrounding area are also closed until further notice.   

Police encourage anyone who knows of people that were in the area at the time but have not been able to contact them to go to the family reunification area at 9151 NW 2nd St., in Plantation Central Park.

 

Debris from the explosion covered the parking lot and surrounding areas of the mall.
Credit Madeline Fox / WLRN News
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WLRN News
Debris from the explosion covered the parking lot and surrounding areas of the mall.

"Our primary effort right now is to make sure that we rescue anyone who needs rescuing and we treat anyone who’s injured," Ryan said.

 

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story identified the gas company for The Fountains Shopping area as Tampa Electric. It is Teco Peoples Gas. We regret the error.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Plantation Police Sgt. Jessica Ryan asked residents to stay away from the area, as it's still considered "an active scene."
Caitie Switalski / WLRN News
/
WLRN News
Plantation Police Sgt. Jessica Ryan asked residents to stay away from the area, as it's still considered "an active scene."

Debris from the explosion covered the parking lot and surrounding areas of the mall.
Madeline Fox / WLRN News
/
WLRN News
Debris from the explosion covered the parking lot and surrounding areas of the mall.

Caitie Switalski is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She's worked for WFSU-FM in Tallahassee as an intern and reporter. When she's in Gainesville for school, Caitie is an anchor and producer for local Morning Edition content at WUFT-FM, as well as a digital editor for the station's website. Her favorite stories are politically driven, about how politicians, laws and policies effect local communities. Once she graduates with a dual degree in Journalism and English,Caitiehopes to make a career continuing to report and produce for NPR stations in the sunshine state. When she's not following what's happening with changing laws, you can catchCaitielounging in local coffee shops, at the beach, or watching Love Actually for the hundredth time.
Madeline Fox is a senior at Northwestern University, where she is double majoring in journalism and international studies. She spent most of her time there writing and editing at the Daily Northwestern, her campus paper, before launching a podcast called Office Hours last spring. Though a native of the much-parodied hipster paradise of Portland, Oregon, Madeline has spent the last three years moving around a lot: Chicago for school, a stint covering transportation policy on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. for Medill News Service and a summer covering news at the Wichita Eagle in Kansas. After finally getting her passport about a year and a half ago, she's been working to fill it with stamps, too: She spent a semester in Sevilla, Spain, to study history; traveled to Israel and the West Bank this summer to learn about Middle East reporting and went to France this winter to conduct interviews for her thesis on the Paris suburbs. When she's not reporting, Madeline can be found cooking, reading or wandering around different parts of the city – nearly always with earbuds in, listening to podcasts. A few of her favorites are Crimetown, Radio Ambulante and Radiolab's More Perfect. She's very excited to be living in Miami, with its many new neighborhoods to explore and its famous food and beaches. After graduation, Madeline hopes to continue working in radio or podcasting.
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