A pair of incompatible cleaning agents, used on the kitchen floor at the restaurant, was responsible for the tragedy, fire officials said.
An accidental mix of cleaners — acid and bleach — generated toxic fumes that killed a Massachusetts Buffalo Wild Wings manager, authorities said Friday.
In addition to the general manager’s death on Thursday evening at the Burlington, Massachusetts restaurant, 13 others were taken to the hospital, according to the Burlington Fire Department.
The fatal accident started shortly after 5:30 p.m. in the Boston suburb when a worker began cleaning the kitchen floor just ahead of the dinner rush, Burlington Fire Chief Michael Patterson told NBC News Friday.
But that employee did not know that an acid-based cleaner, Scale Kleen, had been spilled on the floor earlier, Patterson said. So when the worker used chlorine-and- bleached-based Super 8 on the same floor, the mixture turned green and started to bubble, Patterson added.
After that worker fled the kitchen with burning eyes and breathing issues, the manager grabbed a squeegee and tried to push the bubbling green concoction out of the restaurant and into an outdoor drain before he too was unable to continue, according to the chief.
“He was quickly overcome … and the squeegeeing led to him to a severe medical condition,” Patterson said.
Both the Scale Kleen and Super 8 cleaners had clear labels warning not to mix them with other products, according to fire officials.
“I believe this is just an accident,” Patterson said. The victim, who died at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, was not immediately identified.
“We understand the concerns, fears, and questions you may have following the Buffalo Wild Wings chemical incident which may have involved Auto-Chlor’s product SUPER 8,” according to the statement.
“First and foremost, our condolences are with the individual and their family as well as those affected yesterday during the incident. The safety and well-being of our customers are our first priority, always.”
The statement continued: “At this time, working with OSHA, local authorities, and emergency teams on-site, we are doing everything we can to determine all details behind this incident.”
A responding state hazardous materials team spread neutralizer on the floor and into the outside air which made the restaurant safe to enter hours later, officials said.
City officials closed the restaurant and it will need to get formal clearance from the Burlington Board of Health before it can reopen.
Investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were “responding” to the scene on Friday, an agency spokesman said.
“Bleach by itself shouldn’t be deadly,” said Rick Sachleben, a retired organic chemist and member of the American Chemical Society. “However when it’s a mixed with incompatible chemicals, it can generate toxic gasses and that’s probably what happened here.”
He said millions of homes and businesses across America use these cleaning agents that are perfectly safe when properly used — and potentially harmful if combined.
“You can put all the labels you want, but there are lots of things we use on a regular basis that are potentially dangerous,” said Sachleben, who lives in Burlington.
“I mean, think about gasoline and how flammable and dangerous that is. But no one thinks twice about pulling up to a station and filling up with gas.”
David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.