John Romanelli, a former Southold Town councilman and owner of a North Fork fuel oil company, died early Tuesday morning at Stony Brook University Medical Center. He was 47.
Mr. Romanelli suffered extensive burns Friday when a fuel line ruptured and the biofuel being offloaded from a tanker truck sprayed out and ignited.
Mr. Romanelli, who police said was using a heat source to thaw a frozen pipe, was burned across the front of his body.
“Unfortunately, John’s injuries were far too extensive despite the incredible efforts of the doctors and nurses of Stony Brook University Hospital and John’s fearless battle to survive,” his brother, Paul Romanelli, said in a statement Tuesday morning.
John Romanelli is survived by his wife, Heather, and his two children, Ethan and Tara.
“We ask that you please give the Romanelli family and the employees of Burt’s Reliable time to grieve over this sad event,” Paul Romanelli said in his statement.
Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley called the Friday incident a “freak accident.” Chief Flatley arrived at Mr. Romanelli’s company, Burt’s Reliable, on Youngs Avenue just minutes after what was described as a quick flash fire at about 7:20 a.m. Friday.
A truck was delivering biofuel, a mixture of petroleum and organic fuels such as soybean oil, the chief said. Mr. Romanelli was heating a frozen pipe when a crack opened in the biofuel line and about 20 gallons of the mixture sprayed out and was ignited by what might have been a torch Mr. Romanelli was holding.
“A flame flashed really quickly, but didn’t continue burning,” the chief said. But when Mr. Romanelli’s clothes remained on fire, several employees used fire extinguishers to douse the flames. After he was treated by Southold Fire Department first responders, Mr. Romanelli was airlifted to Stony Brook.
Fire chief Keith Cummings said Mr. Romanelli was caught in a significant fireball that left scorch marks 30 feet up on the canopy over the company’s unloading area.
The family issued a statement Monday saying Mr. Romanelli was stable, but still in critical condition.
“We cannot thank enough for the speedy work of the EMT’s and Fire personnel of the Southold Fire Department and the Southold Town Police Department. We are especially grateful for the fast work of Kevin Boergesson. We are also thankful for the two truck drivers and two unknown Good Samaritan women that stopped to aid John before the arrival of emergency personnel.”
The family said details of his funeral and memorial services are not yet available.