New video shows the moment an explosion that leveled a shopping center in Plantation in 2019. The incident was the result of a gas valve that was left on for hours. In all 22 people were injured.
Dash camera video captured the moment an abandoned pizza shop in a Plantation shopping center exploded.
Attorney Sam Coffey, who says he represents about 30 people and businesses impacted by the blast, tells NBC 6 the explosion was preventable.
“It blew up because the gas company didn’t lock out the gas meter when the customer called to turn off service,” Coffey said.
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A computer glitch within TECO Peoples Gas software, Coffey says, canceled the request to turn off the gas in December 2018.
“What they were supposed to do was take a lock bolt like this, and put it in place, and close off the gas service,” Coffey said. “Had they done that, the explosion couldn’t have occurred.”
TECO Gas told state investigators in 2019 that gas service had been turned off since December 2018.
NBC 6 obtained an audio recording of a Pizzafire manager calling TECO Gas, asking for the gas service to be turned off six months prior to the explosion.
“As of, well, the business closed as of yesterday,” said the manager.
“So, what I can do, if you want to have it done as soon as possible, I can schedule it for you as of tomorrow,” said a TECO operator.
Coffey says the mishap set off the chain of events that led up to the explosion after someone pulled out a pizza oven inside of the restaurant, leaving the gas line open inside the restaurant.
“There was a pipe just sticking out of the wall like this. All they had to do was put a two dollar gas cap on the end of the line called a plumber end, put it in place,” Coffey said. “The line would have been gas tight.”
On July 6, 2019 he says a porter service accidentally turned on the gas, which was supposed to have been turned off in 2018.
That’s when Coffey says the gas traveled through the open gas line inside the abandoned restaurant.
NBC 6 also obtained a phone called placed to TECO on the day of the explosion, from a nearby business owner, who said they could smell gas. The explosion could be heard in the background of the call.
“Again, if the leak is associated with a (explosion occurs) gas meter, the meter may be turned off just for safety, okay? Hello, Mr. Van?” said the TECO operator.
“Over 7,000 cubic feet of gas filled the abandoned pizza restaurant, and the air condition unit clicked on a little after 11 a.m. and the building exploded,” Coffey said.
NBC 6 reached out to TECO Peoples Gas company, asking if a computer glitch canceled the request to shut off the gas service. A TECO spokesperson declined to comment due to pending litigation.
Coffey says his clients have been able to settle with the insurance providers of an auctioneering company, who he believes removed the pizza oven.
While NBC 6 has not independently confirmed the company removed a pizza oven, which Coffey says exposed the gas line inside the restaurant, we’ve reached out to their attorney requesting comment but have not heard back as of publication.