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

Jul 6, 2019

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 at 1041 S University Dr. at 11:28 a.m. about a blast that is believed to have originated from a 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. 

 

"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

“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

"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.