PLANTATION (CBSMiami) — A huge explosion rocked a shopping plaza in Plantation late Saturday morning injuring 23 people. A gas leak is suspected, but still not confirmed, to be the cause of the devastating blast.
“We haven’t ruled out anything yet,” Plantation Fire Battalion Chief Joel Gordon said. “We cannot confirm that a gas leak caused this explosion. We suspect it was.”
Police updated the number of injuries to 23 about six hours after the blast, saying of those 23 people who were hurt, 19 were transported and one of the injured was a child but the child’s age is unknown. None of the injuries were life-threatening. In addition, two people who were seriously injured and taken to Broward Health Medical Center have been updated to Fair condition.
“At this point, nobody was killed. Thank goodness for that. As bad as it is, it could have been a lot worse,” said Gordon. He also said a ruptured gas line was found in the rubble.
The Plantation fire department said earlier in the day it’s believed the explosion took place in a vacant pizza restaurant, right across from an LA Fitness at 1041 S University Drive.
WATCH: Aftermath of the explosion
The explosion demolished the building, leaving behind only part of its metal frame. The restaurant, called PizzaFire, had been out of business for several months.
In video from Chopper 4, debris could be seen strewn along the normally busy road, windows were shattered at the LA Fitness and other nearby businesses were also damaged.
WATCH: Aerial video of the explosion aftermath
Dan Feller was inside his yoga class in the Fountains Plaza when the explosion blew out the windows in the yoga studio.
“A split second later later the ceiling just dropped it on us and the windows just blew right in glass everywhere are all just like what are we going to do?”
Feller and the rest of the class ran out the nearest emergency exit and entered a parking lot filled with debris.
“This just happened right now,” he recalled.
Steve Buckler was inside the LA Fitness working out and his young daughter was in the kids area when the blast blew out all of the windows.
His immediate reaction was to run for his daughter.
WATCH MIKE CUGNO’S Interview with Buckler here:
Employees in neighboring businesses didn’t know what was going on.
“I was just slicing up some tomatoes and all the sudden we felt a huge explosion,” said witness Christian Gou. “Everything in the building just lifted up I was in with all the ceiling tiles just falling down.”
Angela Mariano describes what happened to her.
“Inside our ceiling came in and there was just stuff flying around, my student was on the ground very scared and then outside there was a big cloud of smoke.”
The business Code Ninjas, a computer learning store for children, was destroyed in the explosion, but fortunately it was closed for the holiday weekend.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone impacted by the explosion in Plantation, Florida. pic.twitter.com/DPzmneRewX
— Code Ninjas (@CodeNinjasHQ) July 6, 2019
“We thought it was thunder at first, and then we felt the building shake and things started falling. I looked outside and it was almost like the world was ending,” said Alex Carver, who works at a deli across the street from the explosion. “It was nuts, man. It was crazy.”
The blast scattered large pieces of concrete as far as 50 yards away and sent pieces of metal as far as 100 yards across the street. Carver said two of his co-workers’ cars were destroyed.
For those people who left their cars behind, along with other items such as cell phones, gym bags and other items; a reunification center is located at Plantation Central Park, 9121 NW Second St. However, personal items won’t be available to be returned until Sunday at the earliest.
Firefighters with dogs could be seen sniffing through the rubble to see if anyone was trapped.
TECO Peoples Gas also responded and shut off the lines to the mall.
More than a dozen victims were taken to Westside Regional Medical Center while others were taken to Plantation General Hospital.
Jesse Walaschek had just left the fitness club with his wife and three children, ages 4, 6 and 8. They were parked near the restaurant and had just driven about 50 yards away when they heard the blast.
“It was a massive explosion like I have never experienced,” he said.
Walasheck said dust and debris filled the air.
“Everything just stopped. You didn’t see anybody. I just wanted to get these guys safe,” he said, pointing to his children. “If this had happened a minute before when we were getting the kids in the car, it would have been really bad.”
The state fire marshal, other local agencies and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the cause.
All stores at the area have been closed until further notice.
University Drive is closed to traffic northbound and southbound from Broward Boulevard to I-595. Peters Road is also closed at University Drive.