After the shocking death of its general manager last week, one Burlington, Massachusetts, Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant has reopened its doors for the first time since the accident.
Ryan Baldera, 32, died last Thursday, Nov. 7, when he was exposed to fumes from a floor cleaner, officials said. On Saturday morning, the establishment reopened for business as patrons showed up to grieve the manager.
One customer, Keith Currier, told WWLP that he and his wife were at the restaurant shortly before the incident, and that he wanted to come back to pay his respects.
“I was saying my little prayer to him, like I was saying I knew him, he was a hard guy to work with but he always had your jokes, he was a good guy,” Currier told the outlet. “He always took care of his workers, always made sure they came first.”
According to a GoFundMe page set up for his loved ones — which, as of Monday afternoon, has reached $78,000 — Baldera married his wife last year, and the couple welcomed their first child, a son, three months ago.
“Anyone he met felt better that day or in their life for knowing him,” read Baldera’s bio on the crowd-funding website. “That’s who Ryan was in life and how he left this world — making sure the people around him were okay, safe, happy and with a smile on their face. His selflessness was why everyone who knew Ryan loved Ryan.”
The bio continued: “Sadly, that selflessness cost him his life.”
Tyrone Rodriguez, one of the employees who admired the manager, said Baldera was “an amazing person.”
“Right off the bat, when I first met him, it was a friendship. Right then and there he took me under his wing. He taught me everything I needed to know, to be a leader,” Rodriguez told Boston 25 News. “It’s very rare to have someone like him.”
Emergency responders arrived at the restaurant that Thursday evening around 5:30 p.m. after receiving a report of a “sick individual and a potential chemical release,” interim Burlington Fire Chief Michael Patterson told reporters.
In a press release, Patterson explained that responders found a man being treated by paramedics outside of the Buffalo Wild Wings. Baldera was “suffering from nausea” and was transported to a local hospital, where he later died.
According to Patterson, the manager had been exposed to “a strong cleaning agent” while cleaning the floor of the restaurant. An update on the incident states a fatal chemical reaction resulted when two cleaning products, Super 8 and Scale Kleen, accidentally came into contact with each other.
At least 13 other individuals also became sick once the product was released into the air of the restaurant, the press release said. The 13 victims all self-checked themselves into local hospitals, and Patterson said their symptoms included “difficulty in breathing, runny and watery eyes, and shortness of breath.”
The Fire Chief said the victims included two customers, and the rest were Buffalo Wild Wings employees. Authorities urged anyone who was in the restaurant at the time and believes they may have been impacted to seek medical treatment.
A Buffalo Wild Wings spokesperson told PEOPLE in a statement last week: “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 statement continued: “Because the investigation is ongoing, we are unable to share any additional comment at this time. Any further questions will need to be referred to the local authorities.”
The cause of the incident is still under investigation by the Burlington Fire and Police Departments, with assistance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).