By Tyler Stafford
JUL 7, 2019
Shortly before 11:30 a.m. on July 6, 2019, The Market on University plaza was shaken by a large explosion. Although presumed to have come from the vacant building that used to house Pizzafire, officials have yet to conclude what caused the explosion. Pizzafire closed its doors last December and has sat empty ever since. But the explosion that occurred on July 6 affected far more than the vacant restaurant. A number of neighboring businesses were reduced to rubble and the LA Fitness, across the street, suffered severe damage.
Eyewitness accounts paint a hectic scene inside the gym that morning. St. Thomas Aquinas High School (STA) junior Philip Aleong was in the gym at the time of the explosion. He said “[The explosion] was like the most devastating and loudest sound I’ve ever heard. All I knew was to get out as fast as I could. All you could hear was yelling and people running for their lives. Nobody knew what was happening. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. We saw the building in pieces and I just wanted to get to my car and leave, but it was demolished.” The Raider Review had the opportunity to speak with Plantation resident William Terrell. Terrell was walking into Publix when the explosion occurred. He said “[The explosion was] like nothing I have ever seen or been close to. . . Along with a few other individuals I bolted toward the disaster, to render any assistance if possible. . . There was a large cloud of smoke and dust making it difficult to see and we were cautious not to go too close.”
Plantation Fire Department Deputy Chief Joel Gordon said that first responders did find damaged gas lines and an active gas leak when they arrived on scene and noted that they had contained the leak right away. In a statement released on Saturday, TECO Peoples Gas said “Upon arriving at the scene, the company’s first priority was to ensure the immediate area was safe while emergency personnel responded. Technicians found no natural gas leaks, and they shut off natural gas service to the area as a precaution.” An official cause of the explosion has yet to be determined by the police.
As of 8:11 p.m. on Saturday, the Plantation Fire Department reported in a tweet that there were 23 people injured, with 19 of them being transported. Of the 23 people that sustained injuries, only two were listed as serious and both were transported to Broward Health Medical Center. One patient was transported as a trauma alert and the other is known to be a pediatric patient. Both of them are listed to be in fair condition as of this writing.
One cause of injury was debris that flew a long distance from ground zero of the explosion. A large amount of debris is still being removed from the south parking lot of The Fountains, littering the mostly empty spaces and Tesla charging stations in that area.
Though the current circumstances are very unfortunate, they could have been much worse. Two businesses destroyed in the explosion were Code Ninjas and Kid’s Dental Place Pediatric Dentistry. Both businesses, which were closed because of the holiday weekend, would usually have had many children present. Code Ninjas issued an official statement on the situation verifying that nobody was inside the center.
Many eyewitnesses at the scene said they were worried about the various business owners affected by the explosion. On Saturday night, the City of Plantation said, in a Facebook post, that “All stores and businesses in The Fountain Plaza and the Plantation Marketplace plaza near LA Fitness will be shut down until further notice until Fire Personnel can determine when it is safe to return.” Some businesses were determined to be structurally sound. Publix was able to open its doors on Sunday morning and is already back to serving the community. All businesses in the Fountains Plaza were given approval to reopen on Monday, July 8.
A family and business reunification center was set up by police in Plantation Central Park, on Saturday, so that families could be reunited with their loved ones who were affected by the explosion. Impacted community members were able to retrieve items from their cars on Sunday and Monday with the help of police. A group crisis intervention was held in Plantation Central Park on Tuesday, July 9, and the City of Plantation is holding a second session on July 13 at 9:00 a.m. at the Volunteer Park Community Center.