BURLINGTON, Mass. — Officials have identified the employee killed after being exposed to a strong cleaning agent at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Burlington Thursday evening.
According to officials, firefighters responded to the restaurant on 15 South Avenue on Thursday at around 5:30 p.m. for reports of a chemical reaction in the kitchen.
At the scene, first responders found an employee who said he felt nauseous after breathing in fumes from the cleaning agent. The man was rushed to Lahey Hospital in serious condition, but was later pronounced dead.
On Friday, Burlington Fire officials identified him as 32-year-old Ryan Baldera. Co-workers and friends tell Boston 25 News Baldera was a new dad to a baby boy and got married last year.
"He was just an amazing person," said Tyrone Rodriguez. "Right off the bat when I first met him it was a friendship. Right then and there he took me under his wing. He taught me everything I needed to know, to be a leader."
Rodriguez met Baldera while working under him at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Danvers. He says Baldera was more than just a mentor, he was a friend who taught him so much more than just how to do the job.
"It's very rare to have someone like him," said Rodriguez.
At least ten others were injured in the incident. Interim Burlington Fire Chief Michael Patterson said among those hurt, two were customers and eight were employees. Nine of the injured people drove themselves to Lahey Hospital while the tenth injured person went to a Lowell hospital, he said.
Symptoms included shortness of breath, watery eyes and difficulty breathing. Patterson said patients at Lahey Hospital were treated with oxygen and being monitored.
Patterson said the product that is believed to have caused the incident is Super 8, a common floor-cleaning product that's an approved EPA pesticide. The active ingredient in Super 8, according to the manufacturer, Auto-Chlor Systems, is sodium hypochlorite, which the CDC says is "an effective disinfectant having broad applications."
If inhaled, the person should be removed from the room and breathe in fresh air.
On Friday, officials say the product Scale Kleen, a floor cleaner, was spilled while a worker was using Super 8, a product used to sanitize food preparation surfaces, on the floor and that is what caused the reaction.
Our cameras caught emergency crews wearing hazmat suits, and an expert says these suits are the highest level of protective suits. This could mean crews were concerned that another product could have been mixed with the cleaner, eventually causing the death and hospitalizations.
A preliminary investigation shows one employee had prepared the floor for cleaning and was immediately exposed to the chemical. That employee ran out of the restaurant for fresh air.
The employee who later died was exposed to the chemical as he attempted to drain it out of the building.
Firefighters evacuated the building and a tier 1 hazardous material response was called for.
Authorities stress that there is no current threat to the public, but the restaurant will be closed for the night while the investigation continues.
A Buffalo Wild Wings spokesperson issued the following statement regarding the incident:
"We are shocked and saddened to learn of this horrific accident at our franchise-owned sports bar and are working closely with our franchisee and the authorities while they conduct an investigation. Because the investigation is ongoing, we are unable to share any additional comment at this time. Any further questions will need to be referred to the local authorities."
OSHA has been notified of the incident and police and firefighters will continue to investigate throughout the night. It is unclear when the restaurant will reopen.
Following his death, the Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce has set up a memorial fund for Baldera's family. Those who would like to contribute to the fund can send a check payable to the "Ryan Baldera Memorial Fund" to:
Cambridge Savings Bank
214 Cambridge St., Burlington, MA 01803
A GoFundMe has also been set up to help support the Baldera family.
The Mass Eye and Ear Communications Office issued the following statement on behalf of Baldera's family, saying one of his immediate family members works there.
"Ryan was a beloved husband, father, son, brother, and cherished uncle, nephew, and son-in-law, to his close knit family and friends. While devastated at this unimaginable loss, we are so very proud that Ryan died while trying to protect his fellow employees and restaurant patrons. Our family asks for the public and the media to respect our privacy while we mourn Ryan's untimely death."
Cox Media Group