Authorities are still investigating how a routine cleaning procedure at a Buffalo Wild Wings outside Boston led to the the death of the restaurant’s manager and the hospitalization of at least 13 other people.
The number of victims is expected to rise as health and fire officials encourage anyone who was in or near the restaurant at the time of the incident, an attempt to wash the kitchen’s floor, to see their doctors. The authorities fear that more people may have inhaled fumes from an inadvertent mixture of cleaning supplies and have not connected their exposure to a recent bout of nausea.
Investigators are looking at the possibility that an employee poured a bleach-based cleaning compound on the kitchen floor to clean it before the Thursday dinner rush, not realizing that the floor had been treated earlier with an acidic agent. The alkaline bleach and the acidic residue on the floor may have interacted, sending out a cloud of noxious fumes.
The employee immediately backed away, according to local press reports. The manager who died attempted to prevent the situation from worsening by scraping away the bleach with a squeegee. Witnesses say he was overcome by fumes but managed to stagger outside, where he was found on the ground by emergency personnel summoned to the scene. They rushed him to the hospital, where medical personnel were unable to save him. The man’s identity has yet to be revealed.
Ten others at the scene where taken to the hospital because they had inhaled the fumes. Three others later joined them. It is unclear if guests were among the 13.
“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,” Buffalo Wild Wings said in a statement released to the media.
The restaurant, located in the Boston suburb of Burlington, has closed until authorities can definitively determine the cause of the accident and ensure the unit can safely reopen.