Food by VICE

Huge Explosion That Injured 20 at Florida Mall Likely Came From Pizzeria

The blast shattered windows throughout the complex, sent concrete flying more than 50 meters in the air, and damaged cars in the parking lot.

by Jelisa Castrodale
Jul 9 2019, 7:13pm

Photo: Getty Images

Just before noon on Saturday, an explosion tore through the Market on University shopping center in Plantation, Florida—a blast that was powerful enough to shatter windows throughout the complex, damage cars in the parking lot, and send chunks of concrete flying more than 50 meters through the air. More than 20 people were injured, a surprisingly low number considering the number of businesses that make up the Market, including an LA Fitness, a Publix supermarket, a Great Clips, and several restaurants.

Plantation Fire Department officials originally seemed to suspect that the explosion was caused by a gas leak—their first Facebook post about the incident called out a "GAS EXPLO"—but the cause might not be as straightforward as it seemed. "As of now, the investigation is still ongoing," Plantation Fire Battalion Chief Joel Gordon told VICE. "The State Fire Marshal’s office is leading it. All possibilities remain on the table at this time."

Although the cause itself hasn't been determined, it has been suggested that the explosion originated inside a now-defunct pizza restaurant. "The bulk of the damage is at the vacant unit which used to be Pizzafire," Gordon said. "The investigation will work its way toward that location, but this will take some time."

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Pizzafire was a Neapolitan-style pizza franchise that opened in February 2018 and closed permanently less than a year later. Employees at some of the other businesses that lined the shopping center said that it never looked "super busy." (There are still four Pizzafire locations in Ohio, and one in New Jersey).

"This pizzeria used to serve delicious pizza but, there was a huge and leveling explosion that occurred today," one after-the-fact Yelp reviewer wrote. "Logically, this place has permanently closed."

Some of the businesses within the shopping center have been allowed to reopen, while others are closed until further notice. LA Fitness says that it's shuttered until Wednesday "due to a power outage," the Kids Dental Place website is temporarily referring its patients to other dentists, and Great Clips posted on Facebook that its stylists all hope to be back to that salon soon.

"The key point is that this is nothing short of a miracle that at that time of the day on Saturday, there weren’t more people occupying the businesses or walking through the parking lot," Gordon said.

And if there had been, they wouldn’t have known to dodge an exploding pizzeria.