A Buffalo Wild Wings manager in Massachusetts died Thursday after being exposed to toxic fumes caused by a noxious combination of chemical cleaning products in the restaurant’s kitchen.
At least 13 others were hospitalized, officials say.
The manager was rushed to the hospital when emergency services arrived at the Buffalo Wild Wings branch in Burlington, Mass., and found him in obvious distress, Michael Patterson, assistant chief of the Burlington Fire Department, tells TIME. He died a short time later.
In a statement to TIME, a spokesperson for Buffalo Wild Wings referred questions to local authorities. “We are shocked and saddened to learn of this tragic accident at our franchise-owned sports bar and are working closely with our franchisee and the authorities while they conduct an investigation,” the spokesperson said.
Patterson says the mixture of two cleaning products produced a chemical combination that became life-threatening. The manager was exposed to the chemicals after another employee poured the cleaner Super 8 (sodium hypochlorite) on the restaurant’s kitchen floor. Unbeknownst to the employee, an acid-based cleaning agent had previously spilled in the area where he was using the Super 8, according to Patterson.
“When he started to scrub, there was some type of chemical reaction,” he says.
The employee, whose eyes started burning, quickly left the kitchen as the smell from the two cleaning products spread through the restaurant. In an attempt to get rid of the products, the general manager used a squeegee to collect and move the liquid.
“That’s when he was exposed to it. It was probably an immediate reaction to the product,” Patterson says. Overcome, the manager also left the building. Emergency crew found him outside the restaurant and transported him to the hospital, where he later died. “We knew the guy was in trouble.”
Thirteen others, including two customers, were sickened in the chemical incident and were hospitalized. Patterson says more people could have gone to the hospital because fire officials advised anyone who was at the restaurant at the time to seek medical attention. At least four people were kept in the hospital overnight for observation.
Emergency services evacuated and ventilated the restaurant before a state hazardous materials team arrived to neutralize the area. The building was then turned over to restaurant management, which will be responsible for handling further cleaning, according to Patterson.
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