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 9:10 PM EDT2013-05-22 01:10:01 GMT
The fiance of a 40-year-old man, who was shot and killed after trying to sell electronics off Craigslist in Hartford, speaks to Eyewitness News for the first time Tuesday. Felix DeJesus, of Cromwell, wasMore >
The girlfriend of a 40-year-old man, who was shot and killed after trying to sell electronics off Craigslist in Hartford, speaks to Eyewitness News for the first time Tuesday.More >
Tuesday, May 21 2013 8:58 PM EDT2013-05-22 00:58:27 GMT
A New York man was arrested for making threatening phone calls to the families of the victims of the Newtown school shooting and Connecticut lawmakers. On Dec. 14, 20 first graders and six adults wereMore >
A New York man was arrested for making threatening phone calls to the families of the victims of the Newtown school shooting and Connecticut lawmakers.More >
Wednesday, May 22 2013 1:02 PM EDT2013-05-22 17:02:49 GMT
ORLANDO, FL (RNN) – A man with possible ties to a Boston Marathon bombing suspect was shot and killed after the FBI interviewed him early Wednesday. The FBI confirmed a special agent fatally shot a manMore >
A news release from the FBI Boston division stated the shooting took place early Wednesday when Ibragim Todashev, the shooting victim, started a "violent confrontation."More >
Tuesday, May 21 2013 8:40 PM EDT2013-05-22 00:40:27 GMT
A house fire in Ellington may have occured after it was struck by lightning Tuesday night. Few details were being released, but officials said the fire occured at 8 Zimmerman Way just before 8 p.m. ThereMore >
A house in Ellington may have been struck by lightning Tuesday night.More >
Tuesday, May 21 2013 8:26 PM EDT2013-05-22 00:26:23 GMT
A Severe Thunderstorm Watch has been issued for the all of northern Connecticut until 9 p.m.National Weather Service officials said people should be on the lookout for threatening weather and to pay attentionMore >
Tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings were issued in Litchfield county Tuesday evening as severe weather moved into the state.More >
Tuesday, May 21 2013 6:03 PM EDT2013-05-21 22:03:06 GMT
A family spokesperson told Eyewitness News that the body of a missing Eastern Connecticut State University student was found dismembered. Alyssiah Wiley was last seen since April 20 when she said she wasMore >
A family spokesperson told Eyewitness News that the body of a missing Eastern Connecticut State University student was found dismembered.More >
Tuesday, May 21 2013 7:16 PM EDT2013-05-21 23:16:48 GMT
MOORE, OK - The Oklahoma County Sheriff's office tweeted a photo of a frightened, muddy dog Monday after the deadly EF-5 tornado ripped through the town.The comment accompanying the photo said, "scared,More >
A heartbreaking photo of a little dog guarding the body of his owner, who was killed in the Moore, OK, tornado, is going viral.More >
Wednesday, May 22 2013 5:23 AM EDT2013-05-22 09:23:52 GMT
Happy Saturday, Rain is on its way – as expected – but it will not hamper the entire weekend. Early this morning, there will be low clouds, fog and drizzle in many parts of Connecticut. This will haveMore >
Wednesday, May 22 2013 8:50 AM EDT2013-05-22 12:50:35 GMT
As emergency crews continue their desperate search for survivors in the wake of the devastating tornado that leveled most of Moore, OK, Channel 3 Eyewitness News is teaming up with the American Red CrossMore >
As emergency crews continue their desperate search for survivors in the wake of the devastating tornado that leveled most of Moore, OK, Channel 3 Eyewitness News is teaming up with the American Red Cross to hold a fundraiser for victims.More >