SOUTH JORDAN — The attorney for a woman who suffered chemical burns at a restaurant while drinking what she thought was iced tea said Friday the woman's injuries are worse than originally thought.
Last weekend, 67-year-old Jan Harding was about to eat lunch at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, 683 W. South Jordan Parkway (10600 South), when she poured a glass of sweet iced tea from a drink dispenser. Immediately as she drank it, she felt a burning sensation in her mouth and tried to cough the drink up, said her attorney, Paxton Guymon.
An initial investigation into the incident revealed that either a store manager or an employee put six cups of a white powder substance into the iced tea mixer and stirred it up, apparently believing it was sugar, he said. Instead, the substance was actually a highly toxic industrial cleaning chemical used for cleaning fryers. The main chemical in the substance is sodium hydroxide.
Harding has been in the University Burn Center since the incident, heavily sedated with pain medications. Thursday afternoon, Guymon said doctors performed a scope to find out how extensive the damage was.
"They were hoping for a positive report," he said.
The burns were deeper and more extensive than we had hoped. She remains in critical condition, and there are still a lot of things that could go wrong at this point. It's still touch and go.
–Attorney Paxton Guymon
What they found instead were "deep, ulcerated burns covering the upper area of her esophagus. There are also severe burns throughout her mouth and throat," Guymon said.
"The news was very disappointing and disheartening for the family," he said.
While it was originally believed that Harding spat out or coughed up the toxic tea before swallowing any of it, Guymon said it's obvious from the latest doctor's report that some of the substance did go down her throat.
"The burns were deeper and more extensive than we had hoped. She remains in critical condition, and there are still a lot of things that could go wrong at this point," he said. "It's still touch and go."
The investigation by South Jordan police into how the restaurant could have mistaken the toxic cleaner for sugar resumed Friday.
Police said based on initial investigation, the tea mix-up was an accident. Still, the case will be turned over to the district attorney's office once the investigation is completed to determine if any criminal charges should be filed.
Video Contributor: Tania Mashburn