Vat of scalding oil burns four at Hanover Tomato Festival

By Laura Geller - bio | email

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - A day families all over Central Virginia look forward to took a tragic turn as a festival worker knocked over a vat of scorching hot funnel cake oil, severely burning four people at the Hanover Tomato Festival Saturday.

"We always prepare for the worst and hope it never happens," said Hanover Fire Chief Willie Jones. "But today it happened."

Jones sadi an employee at a funnel cake booth tripped and knocked over a vat of scorching hot oil used to fry the doughy festival treat.

The oil heats to between 350 and 450 degrees.

"There was like 35 gallons of it," he said. "It was almost like a wave hit some of the employees. It was a pretty horrific accident."

Four workers suffered severe burns. Two with second degree burns on 30 to 50 percent of their bodies.  So critical, the victims were airlifted to the VCU Medical Center burn unit.

Fire and medical teams, already on the grounds as a safety precaution, reached the victims within a minute of the accident.

The two most seriously injured were flown out in less than eight minutes. The other two were taken to the hospital by ambulance.

"I'm glad that we had the helicopter there," said Jones. "I'm glad we had our medical workers there so hopefully our quick care could prevent further injury."

The booths were inspected by both the Health Department and Fire Marshal's Office before the fair gates opened Saturday morning.

We talked to workers who run this particular funnel cake booth.

They say this was an unfortunate accident and have no further comment.

Those waiting in line for other fried festival treats are now paying extra attention to their surroundings.

"Accidents happen. Especially when you have this many people shoved into such a small space," said visitor Rob Everhart. "It's always sad when someone gets hurt, but like I say, accidents happen."

OSHA and the Hanover Fire Marshal's Office are investigating the accident.  It could, however, take weeks to get those reports.

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