23 injured after explosion reported in Plantation

2 people seriously injured, authorities say

By Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor, Roy Ramos - Reporter, Parker Branton - Reporter, Trent Kelly - Reporter

PLANTATION, Fla. - A total of 23 people were injured Saturday during an explosion at a shopping center in Plantation, authorities confirmed.

Plantation Fire Department Deputy Chief Joel Gordon said two people suffered serious injuries in the blast that was reported just before 11:30 a.m. at the Market on University shopping center on South University Drive.

"We have pretty much completed the search for victims," Gordon said. "We believe we have located just about everyone."

Broward Health Medical Center officials confirmed an adult was taken to the hospital as a trauma alert. The hospital also received a pediatric patient, but the child sustained less serious injuries and was not considered a trauma alert. A hospital spokeswoman said both patients are currently listed in fair condition.

Three patients were taken to Plantation General Hospital, but have since been released.

Fourteen patients were taken to Westside Regional Medical Center, a hospital supervisor confirmed. Only one person remains at the hospital in fair condition, and the others have been treated and released.

The remaining victims were treated at the scene.

Cameras on the ground captured several people sitting on the curb waiting to be checked out by paramedics.

"One guy and his best buddy that are walking from the Tropical Smoothie back to the gym and they had big lacerations on their arms," Steven Montgomery, a witness, said. "You know, one guy had a lot of injuries on his leg. So they put tourniquets on him."

"Just a big boom. Lights went out. All the ceiling tiles came down on top of us. Everybody started screaming and there was dust everywhere," witness Carrie Hendrick said. "The whole foundation of the building that we were in just shook, and that is a big building."

Fire departments from Plantation, Davie, Lauderhill, Coral Springs, as well as Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue all responded to the shopping center after the blast. Gas was shut off to all businesses in the area, at which time crews discovered a ruptured gas line.

"It just looks like an apocalypse," one woman said. "It's just crazy what natural gas can do, or just gas in general. I mean, it's flattened a whole strip plaza."

A triage area was set up after the blast and authorities and dogs searched through rubble to make sure there were no other victims.

"A bomb just went off," a man said in a video sent to Local 10 News shortly after the explosion.

The video shows heavy damage to the LA Fitness and nearby buildings at the shopping center.

Windows were shattered and debris was scattered throughout the area and parking lot. Some businesses appeared to be completely destroyed. Residents reported feeling their homes shake from several miles away and some nearby homes had some of their windows blown out.

"It was a shock that came over me," said Braulio Morejon, who was inside the LA Fitness when the blast occurred nearby. "I thought my instinct would have been to run and get out of the building but, stupidly, I took out my phone and started recording, and I didn't realize it until later that I didn't really realize the magnitude of what was going on around me."

One video sent to Local 10 News showed an injured man on the ground near the gym. Witnesses said he had lost a lot of blood.

Video from a Nest camera outside of a Plantation home captured the sound of the explosion.

Multiple people in the area told Local 10 News reporter Roy Ramos that the explosion occurred at the Pizza Fire restaurant, but authorities have not yet confirmed that.

According to the owner of Code Ninjas, which is located next door, the restaurant closed in December and a new tenant was about to move in.

The owner said their business is closed for the holiday weekend so luckily there were no children inside learning how to code.

Pediatric dentist Dr. Amanda Buscemi told Local 10 News that her office, which is also nearby, was destroyed in the blast.

The doctor's office was closed Saturday, and Buscemi found her diploma and that of her associate on the street when she went to check on the building.

"It's just unbelievable," she said. "We just cry and cry, you know? But, at the same time, we're just so grateful that no one's hurt. This is our baby, where we see our babies."

According to Buscemi, her office was forced to evacuate about six months ago due to a gas leak in the area.

"So this isn't the first time we've had this issue with gas," she said.

Just this week on Wednesday, Plantation Fire Rescue confirmed businesses were evacuated after the smell of gas was reported at 214 S. University Drive.

All businesses in the area have been evacuated after Saturday's incident.

Authorities said University Drive is shut down from Broward Boulevard to Peters Road, while Peters Road is shut down from University Drive to Southwest 78th Avenue.

Plantation police said relatives who are trying to reunite with loved ones are asked to go to Central Park at 9151 NW Second St.

The explosion comes 34 years after four people were killed and eight people were injured in a similar blast at a Midas Muffler shop in Davie.

In the September 1985 incident, pipes from a 250-gallon liquid petroleum gas tank buried behind the shop were found leaking in the wreckage after the blast, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Copyright 2019 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.