PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Fire officials say a bananas foster dessert caught fire at the Ozona Blue Grill, a restaurant in the Palm Harbor suburb, northwest of Tampa. Four people were burned, including a woman who had severe injuries. Bananas foster is a popular flambe’ dessert that is usually prepared tableside.
25-year-old Katie Hudgins’ who sustained severe burns and 56-year-old Patricia Rogers with respiratory burns were airlifted to Tampa General Hospital. Two other people were burned but refused medical treatment.
Ian Monsalvo, the server, told Sheriff’s deputies he was preparing two bananas foster desserts for two tables when the stream of 151 proof alcohol he was pouring on the dessert ignited, creating pressure in the bottle. He lost control of the bottle which resulted in a burst of flames that spread to the five people who were sitting at the two tables.
Restaurant employees managed to quickly respond and put out the flames, including recent fire academy and paramedic grad 20-year-old Nick Salzer. Mr. Salzer was working less than five feet away from Hudgins table, expediting food when he saw the flames from the corner of his eye. “I just saw the girl and I knew what I had to do,” he said.
Liz Montforti with Palm Harbor Fire and Rescue reports that Ms. Hudgins’ burns are “very, very severe” and she will likely be hospitalized for quite some time. Monforti says the woman suffered first, second and third degree burns.
The owner of the restaurant said the restaurant has offered the dessert for decades and they have never had a problem in the past. Palm Harbour Fire Dept. says the dessert item has been removed from the menu at the restaurant for the time being.