Florida community picking up pieces after explosion in Plantation

Witnesses say vacant pizza restaurant appears to be source

By Maggie Lorenz - Multi-media journalist, Scott Johnson - Reporter

PLANTATION, Fla. - Close to two dozen people were hurt during a large explosion at a South Florida shopping plaza Saturday.

The blast destroyed part of a shopping center in Plantation, west of Fort Lauderdale in Broward County. It destroyed part of the shopping center and badly damaged an LA Fitness gym.

Authorities are not entirely sure what caused the blast, but emergency responders found an active gas leak when they arrived.

Witnesses say a vacant pizza restaurant appears to be the source of the explosion.

The explosion hurled large pieces of concrete up to 50 yards away and sent pieces of metal scattering as far as 100 yards across the street, which resulted in 21 people being taken to hospitals.

Two of those transported are in critical condition.

First responders said they think they’ve accounted for everyone in the explosion.

"A search has been completed of the building itself," said Joel Gordon, battalion chief of the Plantation Fire Department. "We're still searching the collapse area for any leftover victims, but at this point, we believe we've accounted for everyone. We didn't find anybody trapped. We did find people that were obviously involved but nobody trapped."

News4Jax reporter Brittany Muller is from this area, and her parents live about 3 miles from the blast.

Her mom, Lani Muller, felt the explosion in her house.

"Oh yes, I did," she said. "I was just coming home from the grocery store putting things away, and I heard this big boom, and my house shook, and it sounded like it came from the attic. I was outside, and I was looking around to see if I saw anything. I couldn't see anything, and I was trying to figure out what happened."

The Mullers said this is a very busy area with a lot of restaurants and also a Publix where they shop.

Emergency officials and witnesses are saying this could have been a lot worse and that it's a blessing that no lives have been lost.

Gas has been shut off to all businesses in the area.

A pediatrician with an office close to the explosion tells our sister station, WPLG-Channel 10, that her office was forced to evacuate about six months ago due to a gas leak in the area.

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