A JJ's restaurant hostess said she thought she was going to die when an explosion rocked her restaurant Tuesday night, and she is frantic with fear for a missing friend.
"I thought I was going to die. Honestly, I thought I was trapped in there," said Deidre Estes, who has been working at JJ's for 14 years.
Estes said crews had been out investigating a strong gas odor in the area. She said just before 6 p.m. they suggested shutting down the restaurant. As a result, no patrons were inside the restaurant at the time of the explosion, but employees weren't frantically trying to leave either.
"They said, 'Well, because of the smell in here, you guys should really leave,' so that's why we were packing up to leave. They didn't make it sound like you need to get out this second, so we were kind of taking our time, putting things away, locking up the register and then, boom! And everything was black."
Estes said the explosion occurred just a matter of minutes after the last patron left. She was left stunned as debris rained down around her.
"I saw the flames, and I was scared I was going to burn up. And then with all my might, I got this strength and lifted the rubble off," she recalled.
In her panic, she screamed over and over for help.
She said her chef tried to get to her but couldn't. The chef suffered critical injuries.
"To the right of me I saw one of the waiters. And he took my hand and just with all my might I lifted up, I don't know if it was a ceiling tile or walls or what," she said. "And we just made our way through the rubble and just climbed out."
But getting out of the rubble was difficult.
"It was pitch black in there. You couldn't see anything," she said. "And finally I saw a little glimpse of light, so we just followed that and I just kept saying, 'Don't let go of my hand.'"
Another hostess who was working at the time is missing, and Estes is frantic with worry about her.
A man is also missing. Police said cadaver dogs have not located any bodies in the remains of the demolished building, but searchers will return at daybreak Wednesday.
KCTV5's Alan Shope interviewed Estes after she was treated at St. Luke's Medical Center for her injuries.
Estes later posted on Facebook about her ordeal.
"I am so grateful to be alive! I was inside when it happened. Thank you Drew Latourneau for pulling me out of the rubble. Thanks also to the nice neighborhood girl who drove Lindsay and me to the hospital. This is a tragedy I will never forget. Prayers please for me friend Megan, who is still missing," she said.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
Tuesday, May 21 2013 10:39 PM EDT2013-05-22 02:39:27 GMT
The Tennessee Highway Patrol is investigating a high-speed chase that came to a deadly end over the weekend, and police say as far as they can tell it was all over a speeding ticket. Shelbyville officersMore >>
The Tennessee Highway Patrol is investigating a high-speed chase that came to a deadly end over the weekend, and police say as far as they can tell it was all over a speeding ticket.More >>
Tuesday, May 21 2013 10:14 AM EDT2013-05-21 14:14:20 GMT
A father is facing charges after police said he left his young kids in a hot car Monday in the Gulch area downtown. Police said the dad, Tranquilo Camaja-Lajon, went to orientation for a new job and broughtMore >>
A father is facing charges after police said he left his young kids in a hot car Monday in the Gulch area of downtown.More >>
Tuesday, May 21 2013 10:16 PM EDT2013-05-22 02:16:08 GMT
Residents in tornado-stricken Moore, OK, await news on missing love ones Tuesday, a day after a massive tornado devastated the city, killing at least 51. Rescuers worked all night, with particular attentionMore >>
The tornado, with winds up to 200 mph, cut a 20-mile stretch as wide as two miles through the Oklahoma City metro area. The medical examiner's office reported 24 people died, including nine children. More >>
Tuesday, May 21 2013 5:00 PM EDT2013-05-21 21:00:18 GMT
Power was knocked out to thousands of residents in Nashville overnight after a truck slammed into a pole on White Bridge Road. The crash happened at about 10:50 p.m. Monday near Corbett Lane. As of 6More >>
Power was knocked out to hundreds of residents in Nashville overnight after a truck slammed into a pole on White Bridge Road.More >>
Tuesday, May 21 2013 10:36 AM EDT2013-05-21 14:36:49 GMT
(RNN) – A day after long track tornadoes devastated Shawnee and Edmond, OK, another round has begun near Oklahoma City.KOCO broadcast a slow rotating cloud that slowly extended down towards the groundMore >>
Dozens of people have died after a second day of tornadoes twisted through Oklahoma, this time taking aim at the town of Moore, south of Oklahoma City.More >>